Preparing For The Challenges Of Compounding Disasters

Compounding disasters, where two or more hazards are present, are forcing many organizations to evaluate their risks and response plans.

By Shannon Copeland

Extreme weather has recently been seen across the world, seemingly all at the same time. Although natural disasters are part of life, there have now been several instances of compounding disasters, where two or more hazards are present. This weather phenomenon is forcing many organizations to look at their risks for natural disasters and evaluate their response plans.

Compounding Disasters, natural disasters global storms with heavy winds and flooded streets, in cities around the world
(Credit: Adobe Stock / poco_bw)

Lake Charles, Louisiana

 In recent years, there have been many examples of compounding disasters and lack of resources. These include Lake Charles, Louisiana in 2020. Within a 10-month span, Lake Charles had four federally declared disasters: Hurricane Laura, Hurricane Delta, a freeze, and flood depleted the area of essential resources. Hurricane Laura and Hurricane Delta were only six weeks apart from each other, leaving the area with extreme hurricane fatigue. Businesses dealt with infrastructure damage from not having the time and resources to secure their assets before the next disaster hit. This led to longer business outages and more severe damage across the entire region.

Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii

More recently, compounded disasters led to the devastating wildfires in Lahaina that burned just over a couple thousand acres of land and commercial buildings. It has become the deadliest U.S. wildfire of the century. While the initial cause of the Lahaina fire is not certain, the island had a confluence of weather elements that aided the blaze. Hawaii has averaged about two degrees warmer than it was 60 years ago. The increase in temperature causes vegetation to dry out faster, leaving it susceptible to faster burning and at a quicker rate. The dry conditions were compounded by hurricane winds coming from Hurricane Dora that passed through the Pacific Ocean south of Hawaii and a high-pressure zone north of Hawaii. While the hurricane did not make landfall, the wind gusts flowing from the low-pressure hurricane to the high-pressure zone encouraged the spreading blaze.

Compounded Weather Disasters And Non-Weather Events

In addition to weather-related events, there are cases of compounding disasters that have non-weather consequences as well…

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