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As hurricane season approaches, experts say the country is still not adequately prepared.
They warn that as climate change continues to intensify extreme weather, the U.S. will need to adopt stronger resilience policies.

“There’s some definite room for improvement on resilience for hurricanes,” said Gavin Dillingham, director of clean energy policy at the Houston Advanced Research Center.

“Living along the Gulf Coast, there has not been a significant amount of preparation for major storm surge related to hurricanes, not a lot of preparation beyond just some standard infrastructure work for reliability of our power systems,” Dillingham said.
This year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted that hurricane season, which starts Tuesday, will be above-average with between six and 10 hurricanes, following last year’s active season, which had 13 hurricanes.
On Monday, the White House announced it would double the funding to $1 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s program that helps communities take on hazard mitigation projects.

President Biden’s infrastructure plan also calls for $50 billion in resilience funding.
The plan aims for this funding to include boosts to resilience for services like the electric grid, food systems, hospitals and transportation.
He also proposes new incentives at the Transportation Department to help low and middle income people and small businesses invest in disaster resilience, relocation assistance for tribal communities and investing in coastal sea-level rise and hurricane resilience.
Experts have praised the $50 billion as a decent step, but also say more will be needed going forward.

“Fifty billion is a good start,” said Chris Uejio, a co-author of the Center for Disease Control’s Building Resilience Against Climate Effects Framework. “I think the distributional aspect of it is just as important as the headline number.”
But, the government will have a lot more to do going forward, he said, adding that such resilience issues could eventually cost much more to manage.
“Reflecting both upgrading our existing transportation, wastewater, electrical power generation, storage and transmission lines, those alone are in the hundreds of billions for the next 10, 20, 30 years,” said Uejio, who’s also a professor at Florida State University.
In February, a group called the Resilience Action Fund, which seeks to promote community resilience, wrote an open letter to the Biden Administration calling for additional actions such as requiring minimum resilience standards for federally funded buildings and requiring such standards for buildings that get loans from federally-backed mortgage organizations.
Aris Papadopoulos, the group’s chair, argued that it’s important to have such federal standards, saying it’s unsustainable to continue the current “patchwork” under which “everybody does what they locally want” and then asks the government for help when it fails.

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“You can divide the country into a handful of regions and say for these regions, we should have consistency of codes and standards,” he said.
Papadopoulos also said that the focus should be on homes, which he referred to as the “weak underbelly of our communities.”
“If you look at a single home, it’s less important than a bridge or a school or hospital, but if you multiply one home times hundreds of thousands or millions, that’s a big problem,” he said.
Carol Friedland, a professor at Louisiana State University, similarly said there need to be more standards like an existing flood standard for buildings constructed with federal money, but warned that “there’s no clear pathway” for the federal government to impose resilience standards.
“The federal government really doesn’t have the power to dictate building codes to the states, but they can incentivize it,” she said.

Meanwhile, Uejio suggested that another mitigation strategy could be to offer buyouts for homeowners who live in particularly vulnerable areas.
“There are some places that have been flooded multiple years in a row or multiple years in the past five or ten years and people who are ready to move but don’t have the resources to,” he said.

Even as storms are expected to become stronger, Dillingham, with the Houston Advanced Research Center, said that the U.S. can still adapt but needs to move quickly.

“We can continue to adapt, we can continue to work on improving the resilience of our infrastructure, but it just becomes harder and harder the longer we wait,” he said.

“There’s going to be just a higher level of suffering happening across communities, especially in vulnerable communities, unless we start taking some action,” he added.


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US heatwave sees city hit 46C for five straight days – as doctors warn of third-degree burn risk

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Forecasters have issued excessive heat warnings in Arizona and Nevada amid wildfires and record low water levels.

The southwest of the United States is sweltering in record heat as the city of Phoenix saw temperatures hit 115F (46C) for five days in a row.
Forecasters have issued excessive heat warnings in Arizona and Nevada for the rest of the weekend – and doctors have warned of the risk of third-degree burns from hot surfaces.

Las Vegas hit 111F (44C) on Saturday, just three degrees short of its record temperature for June.

In Arizona, fire officials blamed extreme heat for the spread of a wildfire that started on Wednesday and grew by Saturday to nearly 27 square miles near two mountain towns.
Evacuations were ordered on Friday while an aircraft and almost 100 firefighters fought the flames.

Phoenix set a record for the city on Saturday as it 115F (46C) for five consecutive days – and Sunday could extend the record to six days, meteorologist Isaac Smith said.

The problem of burns from hot surfaces is growing in southwest states, as temperatures rise due to climate change and increasing urbanisation.

Arizona Burn Centre in Phoenix said 104 people were admitted in June, July and August 2020 with serious burn injuries due to contact with scorching surfaces – including seven people who died.
Its director Dr Kevin Foster said: “It doesn’t take much time to get a full thickness or third degree burn when exposed to hot pavement.
“Because if you look at hot pavement or asphalt at two o’clock in the afternoon in direct sunlight, the temperature is usually somewhere around 170 to 180F.”

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Temperatures are expected to ease next week but could again top 110F (43.3C) in parts of southwest America next weekend.
Excessive heat warnings are also in effect in nearby California and Utah desert areas, as water levels in some areas dropped.

Lake Mead in Nevada supplies 25 million people with water and saw its water levels drop to their lowest point since the reservoir was filled in the 1930s.
In California, farmers have ditched some of the thirstiest crops to save others, while people are debating whether to ration tap water.

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