Research Implications of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
The impact of Hurricane Katrina underscores a number of the recommendations in this chapter. First, the failure to evacuate a significant number of transit dependent households during Katrina calls attention to the need for research to assess social vulnerability and its relation to hazard exposure and physical vulnerability. In addition, it also raises questions about the extent to which hazard/vulnerability analyses are conducted and used as a planning basis for developing local emergency operations plans. Second, the continued occupancy of areas below sea level that were protected only to the expected surge from a Category 3 storm raises questions about the dynamics of hazard vulnerability and the potential for more effective land-use practices and building construction practices to reduce this vulnerability. Future research should carefully examine the extent unfettered market forces reproduce previous vulnerability or, alternatively, whether new structural protection works, land-use practices, and building construction practices are integrated into the reconstruction process that will reduce this vulnerability. Third, Katrina revealed a conspicuous lack of coordination among agencies and levels of government during the emergency response. This suggests not only that planned multi-organizational networks (e.g., the National Incident Management System—NIMS) failed, but also that emergent multi-organizational networks failed to develop adequately. Research is needed to identify the organizational design and training problems that must be corrected to prevent future breakdowns.
Hurricane Rita provided yet another example of widespread traffic jams resulting from the evacuation of urbanized coastal areas. A survey by the Houston Chronicle found that approximately 2.5 million households (approximately 50 percent of the population) in the eight-county metropolitan Houston area evacuated. The large number of evacuating households, 46 percent of whom took more than one vehicle, grossly exceeded the capacity of the evacuation routes. This caused massive queues that resulted in 40 percent of the evacuees taking more than 12 hours to reach their destinations and 10 percent taking more than 24 hours—even though 95 percent of them were traveling to locations that are normally within a four hour drive. Although spontaneous evacuation was incorporated into evacua-