Emergency Management

No flood in your city? Lessons from New Orleans still apply

When New Orleans flooded 10 years ago last month, it looked to many people in America as though the city could never recover. Today, when the word “resilience” dots virtually every scrap of writing on urban policy around the globe, New Orleans provides iconographic proof that a city is, in fact, a hard thing to […]

Snow in the South

Is there anything more diverting for a Southerner than a couple of inches of snow? The mere suggestion of the slightest chance of a flurry whips us into a frenzy. When my niece and nephew were younger, they’d flush ice cubes down the toilet then go to bed wearing their pajamas inside out and underpants […]

Flood-prone site of former temple, school now awaits storm waters

On Nov. 11, 1957, a white separatist organization failed in its attempt to destroy Charlotte’s Temple Beth El, now the largest reform congregation in the Carolinas, with dynamite. Last month however, almost 56 years later, the building was finally destroyed – not as a malicious act but as part of Mecklenburg County’s floodplain acquisition program. […]

Sustainable home prepares for cross-country journey

It took them two years to design and build it, but over the next two weeks, a team of UNC Charlotte architecture, business and engineering students will tear down their solar-powered home, Urban Eden. But that’s only because the home must be deconstructed, loaded on a flatbed trailer and shipped to Orange County, Calif., where […]

A year later, were tornado lessons learned?

It’s that time of year again – for changing skies and summer storms. A little more than a year ago, early on March 3, 2012, an unannounced tornado blew through parts of Harrisburg and eastern Mecklenburg County. The twister injured four people, destroyed six homes and left 41 others uninhabitable or with major damage – […]

Stormy Septembers in the Piedmont

The Atlantic hurricane season spans half the year, June through November, but North Carolina typically sees the most storms, and some of the worst, in September. Our coast is especially vulnerable to hurricanes, but we sometimes experience their devastation here in the Piedmont. In the fall of 1989, I was living in Chapel Hill in […]

Assessing our learning curve 10 years after 9/11

Ten years after the events of 9/11, if we want to assess how well we have learned about the threat of terrorism we need to look back. But we also need to look at our world today, to see how well our learning curve compares with those planning and carrying out terrorist events. And we […]

Planning and Responding to Disasters: A Risky Proposition

“Which is more likely to kill more Americans in the US in the next year, a nuclear meltdown similar to Chernobyl or a hurricane similar to Katrina?” (Please write down your answer, and then read on…) Catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns in Japan draw […]

Will we ever learn from disasters?

The March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated the northeast coastal area of Japan has highlighted the extreme vulnerability of man-made infrastructure to natural hazards. Despite tremendous advances in engineering and construction, disasters of this magnitude lead us to question whether or not we should build infrastructure robust enough to withstand such a devastating […]