While the Gulf Coast has no shortage of reasons why it is a fantastic place to call home, it is a reality that its vulnerability for volatile weather patterns persists. As climate change continues to rear its ugly head, this vulnerability is only bound to escalate, leaving countless cities from Galveston to Miami in its path. There are of, course, discrepancies in the proposed sources of climate change; many believe the phenomenon is human-created by our dependency on harmful material such as fossil fuels, while others assert that the shift is no more than one of the natural climate readjustments that have occurred throughout history. Regardless, factors like rising sea levels cannot be denied. This discussion serves not as a space for debate, but a discussion in preparedness. While we may not witness major environmental catastrophe in our lifetime, some of global warming’s fringe consequences still hold the power to put homes in jeopardy, particularly here in Louisiana.
The first major concern involves the sheer volume of water to which the Gulf Coast will be subjected. The Gulf of Mexico has historically been the nemesis of shorelines during hurricane season. However, the severity of deluges is projected to keep increasing. Extreme downpours, such as those witnessed in the greater Baton Rouge area in August of 2016, are expected to become more of a regular occurrence. It won’t necessarily take a major hurricane or tropical storm to wreak havoc on communities, but rather, a simple rainfall. Further, rising sea levels will continue to creep up on New Orleans, Tampa, and Miami. Coastlines will erode, putting homes that never held high-risk status on the frontlines of flooding. Because current drainage systems and infrastructure were not built with substantial risk in mind, it may also take a good while for water to drain and recede, particularly after a rain event. These risks all highlight the importance of having flood insurance even if you have not historically been the victim of flood. Looking at future weather predictions from reputable sources such as the Environmental Protection Agency can be great tools for understanding your home’s future risk.
On the other side of the coin, the Gulf Coast is also going to see an increase in heat and drying. Temperatures are expected to increase by four degree, rendering ice events obsolete. These higher temperatures are linked to greater instance of droughts, particularly in the Western portion of the region, affecting Louisiana and Texas significantly as the rest of the American Southwest continues to dry out. While concurrent deluge and drought may seem odd, bear in mind that greater temperatures escalate the rate of evaporation. Water inundating from rising sea levels will be largely comprised of salt water, leading to a dwindling supply in fresh. Hot, dry conditions are prime fodder for events like brush fires and other natural disasters. Like with the case of flood insurance, it is important to make sure that your homeowners policy is up to date with appropriate coverage.
Of course, retaining the proper insurance is just the first step. With an increase in weather events comes an increase in claims, leaving you with longer response times and greater likelihood of error on the part of your insurer. If you begin to find yourself in a repetitive loss property—which stands a greater probability with more relentless and unforgiving weather—this journey may become particularly frustrating. If weather projections are any indication, federal grants may be needed to help citizens move to higher ground. But, until that happens, property casualty attorneys will need to be relied on to make sure claims are being handled appropriately, especially when expensive engineering overhauls are needed to raise a house. While climate change will continue to introduce newfound costs, our current resources can be utilized to ensure that the burden is not being disproportionately placed on homeowners.