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From the Editor: Infrastructure (and Humans) Under Siege

Mark Scacco on November 6, 2017 - in Articles, Column

On Aug. 24, 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Rockport, Texas, as a Category 4 hurricane. For the next five days, the storm dumped a historic amount of rain on the second-largest state in the union before heading back out to the Gulf of Mexico. On Aug. 29, 2017, Harvey made landfall a second time, this time in Louisiana, wreaking havoc before dissipating two days later.

When the skies finally cleared, 82 people had lost their lives, and the states suffered an estimated $70 billion to $110 billion in economic losses. The storm dominated the headlines … until Irma hit.

Barely more than a week after Harvey ended, Hurricane Irma, another Category 4 hurricane, ripped through the Virgin Islands, Cuba and Puerto Rico, then making landfall on the Florida Keys on Sept. 10, 2017. As it moved up the west coast of Florida, it left death and destruction in its wake. As of this writing, 69 deaths are blamed on the hurricane, and the number is expected to rise. Economic losses are estimated to be more than $80 billion.

They say bad luck travels in three’s, and that adage may very well apply to hurricanes: Hurricane Maria has already devastated Dominica. As this magazine heads to the printer, it’s too soon to tell if it will hit the U.S. mainland.

Although it’s still too early to know the full extent of the damage delivered by the aforementioned two storms, the available statistics paint a picture of devastation:

• Nine of the 10 most expensive hurricanes in the United States have occurred since 2000 (the outlier is 1992’s Hurricane Andrew).

• In Texas, almost 1 million cars were destroyed.

• 6.8 million Floridians and 300,000 Texans lost power.

• 27,000 homes in the Houston area were damaged or destroyed.

• 25 percent of homes in the Florida Keys were completely destroyed.

• Harvey dumped 19 trillion gallons of rain on Texas and 5.5 trillion gallons on Louisiana. That’s enough water to fill a cube with sides 2.6 miles long!

• Harvey caused the cancellation of 9,400 flights, and Irma caused 3,500 flight cancellations.

Don’t Forget about Earthquakes

This issue includes a short “From the Field” feature about a recent and large 8.1-magnitude earthquake that rocked Mexico on Sept. 7, 2017. See page 24 for the details of that event, but as we near the deadline to publish this issue, a smaller, but still powerful magnitude-7.1 earthquake hit near Mexico City on Sept. 19, 2017.

Although smaller in magnitude, this newer quake proved more deadly and destructive as it was much closer to population centers. More than 200 people died, power was cut from millions of residents, and Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto quickly announced that at least 27 buildings collapsed in the capital of Mexico City, which is about 75 miles from the epicenter. Much more information on this quake has likely come out since this time.

This is a lot of breaking disaster news, and a lot of it is affecting the world’s various infrastructure. We’ll do our best to stay on top of it for you, so look for more information on the latest events in future issues of Informed Infrastructure as well as its accompanying website at informedinfrastructure.com.

Mark Scacco

About Mark Scacco

Mark Scacco, P.E., is the Editor in Residence for Informed Infrastructure magazine and since 2001 has been an AEC industry consultant. He is the president of Scacco LLC and can be reached at mark.scacco@scaccollc.com.

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