2017 - Ongoing
Scientists regularly warn drastic changes associated with climate change in regional demographics and cultural psychographics will be seen in our lifetime. Climate disasters in recent years have caused exponentially more damage to communities, both in loss of life and economic destruction. This project encompasses the long-term effects multiple and continual disasters have had on communities throughout the United States.
On October 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael made landfall in Mexico Beach, Florida, killing dozens of people and destroying nearly 60 miles of Gulf Coast communities. The aftermath of the storm left tens of thousands of people homeless and was the most intense U.S. hurricane to make landfall since Camille in 1969.
Months after the storm, residents continued to live in homes without roofs, walls or electricity, while others were just able to return to find their homes and neighborhoods destroyed. The permanent displacement due to the storm is not yet known, but more than 4 percent of the Florida Keys’ population never returned after Hurricane Irma, forcing thousands of people to find homes elsewhere.
Hurricane Florence produced record rainfall and flooding which caused the sustained evacuation of communities throughout the Carolinas for weeks after the storm passed. The American Red Cross estimates thousands have been left without permanent housing due to Florence and are currently displaced. The town of Lumberton, North Carolina was destroyed by both Hurricanes Matthew and Florence just two years apart after the Lumber River crested and flooded low-lying communities. Both floods were considered 500-year flood events according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood zone designations. Hurricane Harvey contributed to Houston’s third 500-year flood event in just three years.
The visuals of destruction associated with these disasters are ingrained in our minds, but the reporting on the long-term human impact is often visually incomplete, relying on simple reporting of statistical data. My focus is to share stories not only on the mechanisms of initial destruction these disasters cause, but the interpretation of scientific data into stories that are grounded in humanism and promote social accountability.
A PHmuseum grant would give me the opportunity to continue to cover the long-term, nationwide impacts of these climate disasters, including how permanent residential displacement affects communities, how the widespread destruction of housing and infrastructure affects local economies, and how families that have lost everything are coping months or even years after the media, the federal government and public awareness have left them behind.
As climate disasters intensify in the coming decades, will communities continue to rebuild with an outlook of uncertainty or will these regions of the country be forgotten by the anguish associated with their continued destruction?