Post-Hurricane Recovery in the United States: A Multi-Scale Approach

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As we increasingly consider resilience as a central strategy for addressing climate change, recovery emerges as an important dimension that is often the focus of public policy. The progression of global climate change will cause an increase in the scale and magnitude of disasters, so it is more important than ever to understand how we can not only prevent impacts, but also recover from them. This research was carried out with the primary goal of examining recovery at multiple scales, while simultaneously considering the social and economic forces and community behaviors that influence recovery outcomes. This dissertation proposes new ways of conceptualizing and quantifying recovery and analyzes the way that neighborhood characteristics and community engagement influence the recovery process. The findings emphasize the importance of assessing recovery progress on multiple timescales and highlight the opportunities that emerge as a result of community engagement with local government throughout the recovery process.

The first analytical chapter considers the interaction between vulnerability and recovery by studying power outages and restoration following Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana. This approach uses power restoration as a metric by which to better understand short-term recovery of a specific infrastructure system, building a model for recovery that takes into account antecedent conditions, impact, hazard and prioritization. The next chapter considers 311 requests in Houston TX as a potential proxy measure for civic engagement and social capital. This chapter analyzes 311 contact volumes across the City of Houston and identifies the neighborhood characteristics that influence proclivity to call. Finally, the 311 data is used to better understand system-level recovery and community engagement in the recovery process in Houston TX following Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The chapter compares neighborhood-level use of 311 services prior to Hurricane Harvey to the way it was used for storm-related concerns in the weeks directly following the storm.