Tropical Depression Imelda made landfall on Southern Texas last month, causing extreme rainfall and “major, catastrophic flooding” across several counties in the region. This storm comes about two years after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey, which had 38% higher rainfall than expected, a result researchers have attributed to atmospheric conditions from climate change. Both storms have followed a trend of increasing rainfall due to warming air temperatures.
Tropical depression Imelda brought upwards of 43 inches in certain Texas counties, a record setting amount, as Southern Texas normally expects to see an average of 63 inches of rain each year. The intensity of the rainfall caused widespread disruptions. First responders were dispatched to rescue people by boat from their homes and cars, the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston ordered a full ground stop, and some schools followed protocol to have their students shelter in place. Beyond this, many Texans were unable to reach their friends and families and were left to worry about their safety and well-being. Recent reports have determined that 5 Texans have died as a result of the storm. The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, declared a state of disaster in 13 counties because the storm has “caused widespread and severe property damage and threatens loss of life.”
Scientists have determined that the exceptional amount of rainfall seen in recent storms is due to the warming air temperatures, as a result of global climate change. Warmer air is able to carry more moisture, enabling storms to release increasing amounts of precipitation when they cool off upon reaching land. This means that regions which are prone to hurricanes are likely to experience an increased threat of disruptions and damages.
These situations make preparing and responding to disasters especially difficult for those without access to adequate resources. Access to transportation to evacuate, as well as financial means to temporarily relocate and rebuild are a few of the ways which preexisting disparities impact the resiliency of a community. Although emergency management agencies and volunteer organizations have worked to help as many individuals as they can, larger structural causes of these storms continue to underscore existing societal vulnerabilities.
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