Residents across North Carolina shuddered last week when they learned that another slow-moving category 5 hurricane had our state in its sights. Coastal areas still suffering from 2018’s back-to-back hurricane hits looked on in special horror as Hurricane Dorian approached.
Dorian ultimately treated North Carolina relatively gently compared to the hammer blows it unleashed while crouching over the Bahamas for more than a day. Even so, it still left hundreds of thousands of customers in the Carolinas without power, and destroyed homes and businesses as it rushed past.
North Carolina citizens — and especially North Carolina policymakers — need to pause before breathing a sigh of relief at being spared another direct hit from a major storm.
Consider this: Dorian marked the fourth straight year of at least one Category 5 hurricane forming in the Atlantic, the first such streak on record. Dorian was incredibly destructive to the Bahamas, not just because it was powerful, but because it crouched stationary there for so long.
It marked a continuation of the trend toward larger, more powerful, wetter, and slower-moving storms. These are especially destructive because of the prolonged heavy rainfall they pour over wide areas. Rivers rise and flood, low-lying areas are inundated, and the contents of sewage plants, factory farm waste pits, and toxic waste dumps pour out into the waters and over the land. Evacuation routes are cut off, and entire communities can remain dark and isolated for extended periods. Human costs, infrastructure destruction, and economic losses mount while emergency aid and recovery programs are overwhelmed.
These are all the predictable results of the warming oceans, a consequence of the climate crisis which has now arrived. The question is no longer whether global warming will create catastrophe, but whether we will finally act quickly and strongly enough to contain the damage and survive as a civilization.
Hurricane season has just started.