Gongol.com Archives: July 2024

Brian Gongol

July 3, 2024

Weather and Disasters Beryl lands on Jamaica

It can be difficult to imagine an event like a hurricane as much more than an abstraction on a map or a dramatic video clip of wind and waves. But Hurricane Beryl's collision with Jamaica will almost certainly shine a light on a more complicated scale. ■ A hard-hitting natural disaster, like a hurricane depositing rainfall amounts of 12" or more, places a heavy burden on the basic infrastructure upon which everything else is built: Roads, power supplies, drinking water, and sanitation. ■ Much of the western shore of Jamaica, for instance, is bound together by a two-lane highway, the A1. It is vital, but it is also vulnerable: Narrow, and often just a few feet away and feet above the sea. There are river crossings where a flash flood could undermine or wipe out a narrow bridge and disrupt access for months. ■ As with so many economic problems, it is a matter of the chicken and the egg: It's hard to pay for infrastructure without economic growth, and it's hard to get economic growth without good infrastructure. Jamaica's per-capita GDP after inflation hasn't really changed since the mid-1990s. And the strength of the country's tourism sector could become a liability if visitors simply cannot make it to vacation destinations. ■ We should always worry about the first-order effects of a natural disaster -- the immediate human impact, in terms of lives lost and lives affected. But we should also take note of the second-order effects: How much capacity is required to bounce back from a major hit, and how resilient the reconstructed infrastructure will be in anticipation of future disasters.

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