In September 2018, a North Carolina city’s long road to recovery from Hurricane Matthew two years earlier became even longer. Lumberton, a small but diverse city of 21,000 people, 96 kilometers (60 miles) inland from the coast, unfortunately found itself in Hurricane Florence’s sights. The Lumber River, which bisects the city, swelled greatly. The flooding damaged hundreds of buildings, causing many residents to abandon their homes.
NIST researchers, ourselves included, had first visited Lumberton in 2016, not long after Hurricane Matthew devastated the area. Because of this, a team of NIST researchers who study community resilience and disasters, together with researchers from the Center for Risk-Based Community Resilience Planning, were watching the events of Hurricane Florence unfold with a close eye.
At the time, we were (and still are) conducting a long-term study of the city to uncover how a multitude of factors such as flooding damage, insurance coverage and demographics (e.g., race and age), among others, relate to impact, recovery and long-term resilience. Individual aspects of disaster recovery have been studied in the past, but they’re rarely tackled all at once. By piecing together this large and rather complex puzzle with engineering and social science expertise, we aim to glean insights that could help communities across the U.S.