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  • 1. Hurricane HugoThe Storm, Coastal Development and FEMA’s Response Greg Licamele EMSE 232 March 30, 2004 1
  • 2. Soundbites“We’ve had 35 years with no storm of real consequence on the East Coast. Thisunprecedented gap in hurricane activity has coincided with an unprecedented rush todevelop” – Orrin Pilkey, coastal geologist (Galloway, 1989)“Hugo roared through the state last Sept. 21 and 22, doing more property damage in aday than was done in four years of the Civil War.” – USA Today (Mayfield, 1990)“Not too many people could even tell you what a FEMA was a few days ago, let aloneunderstand our mission. That’s the way we like to have it.” – Grant Peterson, formerFEMA associate director (McAllister, 1989)“(FEMA) is the biggest bunch of bureaucratic jackasses.” – Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-SC)(Hall, 1990)Table of ContentsI.) IntroductionII.) The Hurricane and Its Effects a.) Hugo Approaches b.) Coastal Development c.) Preparations d.) Hugo Reaches Shore e.) Deaths, Damages and Dollars f.) Power Outages g.) Response and Recovery h.) FEMA’s Role i.) Federal Assistance j.) Poor and Rural Areas k.) FEMA Beyond South Carolina l.) Disasters and PoliticsIII.) Lessons LearnedIV.) Conclusion 2
  • 3. Introduction Hurricane Hugo arrived on the shores of the United States with a weather punchunmatched in years, but the storm also left imprints of social, government, economic andenvironmental issues to consider. Two aspects of Hurricane Hugo are particularly focused upon in this study: thelevel of coastal development in South Carolina and, in general, in the United States; andthe response of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the disaster.One case shows what went terribly wrong and how changes have been made while theother example highlights policies that have barely changed in decades. As Hugo hit Charleston, S.C., on Sept. 22, 1989, coastal residents and officialsworried about the intensity of the storm. After it ravaged the Virgin Islands and PuertoRico, Hugo had gained steam and headed toward the United States – an inviting target fordamage because of coastal development. Congress and state governments attempted toregulate development, but to little success. After the hurricane struck, FEMA and local officials were slow to respond. It took10 days for the first Disaster Application Center (DAC) to be established. Residentswaited weeks for aid, while local governments could not penetrate the bureaucracy ofFEMA’s policies and forms. Power outages plagued response efforts. In all, 35 peopledied in the Carolinas and the price tag for Hugo totaled almost $6 billion. But the slowresponse by FEMA to Hugo and other events in 1989 led to agency changes that havemade the federal government a more useful partner in disasters. Meanwhile, 90 percent ofbuildings destroyed by Hugo have been rebuilt and flocks of people have moved to thecoast despite annual hurricanes that lead to more damage. A delicate balancing act exists 3
  • 4. between economic development and coastal growth, as coastlines often generate asubstantial portion of a state’s tourism dollars. While all levels of government learnedtheir lessons about the response to hurricanes, they have not enacted mitigation principlesin coastal environments.The Hurricane and Its EffectsHugo Approaches. This monumental storm was first tracked off the coast of Africa onSept. 9, 1989. It made its way through the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, causingbillions of dollars in damage and scores of deaths on those island nations. As it left theCaribbean, it cast its eye on the United States, first aiming toward Florida on Sept. 18-19.However, the track moved northward and the first hurricane watch was issued from St.Augustine, Fla., to Cape Hatteras, N.C. (Baker, 1994). Charleston, S.C., was next.Coastal Development. As the storm churned toward the Carolinas, one major concernamong government officials, engineers, environmentalists and others was the potentialimpact a storm could have on the rapidly developed coast. South Carolina’s economy isbased in large part on tourism and the draw of the beach, so economic development wasoften put first before mitigation strategies. According to one study, coastal counties fromMaine to Texas were home to approximately 40 million people in 1997. In historicalcontext based on 1997 numbers, about 3.2 million people alone lived in Florida’s Dadeand Broward counties compared to 3.2 million people who lived in all 109 coastalcounties from Texas to Virginia in 1930 (Pielke, 1997). As more people move to coastal communities, their exposure to hurricane hazardsincreases. The population grew, but the number of properties increased even more.According to 1993 statistics, coastal communities in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast regions 4
  • 5. accounted for more than $3.1 trillion worth of insured property, a 69 percent increaseover 1980’s total of $1.9 trillion (Pielke, 1997). South Carolina’s risk for hurricanes has traditionally been less than its neighbors;it ranked fifth behind Florida, Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina in the number ofdirect hurricane hits from 1900-1982 (Platt, 1991). This ranking led to some level ofcomplacency for mitigation and preparedness because local tax bases increased. Nearlyall of the 60-mile, northeast stretch of coast in South Carolina known as the “GrandStrand” and half of all South Carolina’s coastal islands were developed in 1991,generating two-thirds of the state’s $3.75 billion annual tourism receipts (Platt, 1991). It was a well-established fact that coastal erosion was occurring in South Carolinaand around the country. “The South Carolina coast is vulnerable to erosion and damagefrom hurricanes. Erosion of more than one foot per year affects an estimated 26 miles ofthe total developed shoreline; another 30 miles is subject to erosion of less than one footannually.” In 1987, Congress acted on these trends by passing the Upton-JonesAmendment, which authorized the National Flood Insurance Program to reimburseproperty owners for demolishing or relocating structures endangered by erosion.However, its impact was limited, as only 228 claims were approved nationwide in fouryears (Platt, 1991). The South Carolina state government slowly awakened to potential problems ayear before Hugo when it passed the Beachfront Management Act (BMA), which“prohibited new construction or the replacement of destroyed buildings in a ‘dead zone’20 feet back from the first row of dunes, and it restricted development in an adjoining‘setback zone.’ It also limited repairs that could be made to damaged seawalls” 5
  • 6. (Applebome, Sept. 24, 1989). But the BMA also followed the common pattern of otherlocalities by instituting a beach replenishment program, which, in many cases,encourages population growth and development. Before the hurricane, the BMA led to 60 lawsuits (Platt, 1991) in response to thecompeting goals of protecting shorelines and promoting economic development. Thisdebate was manifested more clearly during Hurricane Hugo. Some argued that coastaldevelopment was just as important in the long-term as was responding to impacts ofshort-term hurricanes. As one scientist wrote, “The general public does not understandvery well the process of gradual, long-term beach erosion, tending rather to focus ondramatic events such as hurricanes” (Leatherman, 1994). In addition to tensions of coastal development, building codes in South Carolinawere sometimes non-existent or not enforced (Manning, 1994). Lessons from previouscoastal hurricanes did not influence local governments. For example, in 1954, Hurricane Hazel caused widespread damage to thesoutheast coast of North Carolina. After that storm, building codes were strengthenedthere. As a result, Hurricane Diana made less of an impact in 1984 (Leatherman, 1994). But South Carolina was left relatively untouched during those and other stormsand it did not change its building or coastal codes, which led to heavy damage fromHurricane Hugo (Leatherman, 1994). At the time of Hugo, there were virtually nostatewide building code controls on the books in South Carolina (Rubin, 1990). These twin pillars of coastal development and building codes played anundetected, major role in how damaging Hurricane Hugo turned out to be. This caused 6
  • 7. one researcher to follow the path of money and politics when writing about popular FollyBeach, S.C., which is instructive to understanding coastal communities: “(Folly Beach) reflects a capitalist pursuit of financial gain facilitated by publictax policies, infrastructure subsidies, potential beach renourishment, federal floodinsurance policies that ignore erosion hazards…Folly Beach epitomizes the nature oferosion as a political hazard” (Platt, 1991).Preparations. After the first hurricane watch was issued for much of the Atlanticcoastline on Sept. 20, state officials initiated no significant response actions. By thatnight, however, officials in South Carolina began recommending evacuations – theprimary preparedness method for Hugo – because the 11 p.m. news would be the finalopportunity to reach residents until the next morning. At 6 a.m., a hurricane warning wasissued from Fernandina Beach, Fla., to Cape Lookout, N.C., as the storm lurked 24 hoursaway from landfall. South Carolina’s governor ordered the evacuation of barrier islandsand beaches with the help of the National Guard (Baker, 1994). Throughout the day on Sept. 20 and into Sept. 21, the storm intensified,increasing in wind speed from 115 mph at noon to 138 mph at 6 p.m. (labeling Hugo aCategory IV hurricane). By 6 p.m., the evacuation of almost 265,000 people was nearlycompleted (Platt, 1991). Public response to the evacuation was generally well heeded, according to a studyconducted three months later. Eighty-nine percent of residents in the areas ordered toevacuate did, compared to 70 percent who evacuated based on recommendations. Theseevacuees did not venture to public shelters; rather, most (55-66 percent) went to homes offriends or relatives. According to the study, this probably resulted from officials 7
  • 8. discouraging the use of public facilities for fear of insufficient space (Baker, 1994).Based on data, this study concluded “evacuation rates, evacuation timing and vehicle usewere all predicted accurately throughout South Carolina” (Baker, 1994). Gas and other services were turned off in preparation for the hurricane.Commercial flights to the area were halted (Cook, 1994). Officials said the loss of life would have been far greater if evacuations were notordered. Evacuations were not always standard operating procedure, however. In 1969,Hurricane Camille killed 256 people, including some brave souls who gathered for ahurricane party (Applebome, Oct. 1, 1989). Lessons learned led to greater coordinationfor evacuations, especially because as every year passes, more people live on the coastthan ever before. Coastal development and evacuations go hand-in-hand, thoughevacuations are not exactly a long-term mitigation strategy. Compared to the response and immediate recovery periods, the preparednessportion, especially evacuations, turned out to be one of the few positive steps duringHurricane Hugo, as “very little recovery planning had been done at any level ofgovernment” (Rubin, 1990).Hugo Reaches Shore. On Sept. 22, Hugo’s eye crossed just north of Charleston, S.C.One-hundred and thirty-five mph winds extended 100 miles northeast and 50 miles south.The eye of Hugo continued its path just east of Columbia, S.C., 100 miles inland; at 3a.m., winds continued there at 109 mph. Hugo reached Charlotte, N.C., by sunrise, but asa tropical storm with 87 mph winds (Rubin, 1990). Unlike most hurricanes, Hugo beltedthe inland with stronger winds than usual due to its faster forward movement (Manning,1994). The forward speed at 6 p.m. on Sept. 21 was roughly 20 mph (Baker, 1994). The 8
  • 9. faster forward speed might have limited the damage to the coastal regions because thestorm moved quicker than expected, but significantly greater damage still occurred thanwhat was anticipated (Manning, 1994).Deaths, Damages and Dollars. As the storm raged through the Carolinas, it soonbecame clear that Hurricane Hugo would become the most destructive, costly naturaldisaster in U.S. history up to that point in time. Hugo cost $5.9 billion in the UnitedStates; it destroyed 8,000 homes and damaged 92,000 buildings. Thirty-five people diedin the Carolinas (with another 17 fatalities in the Caribbean) (Mayfield, Sept. 20, 1990).President George H.W. Bush declared half of South Carolina a disaster area as 70,000families were displaced (Brown, Sept. 6, 1990). Electrical power was knocked out forweeks to some places and the loss of power severely hindered the response and recoveryprocesses. Though the deaths were relatively low compared to the total population livingalong the coast, the majority of the actual causes of death happened after Hugo passed,according to a Centers for Disease Control report. Thirteen residents of South Carolinadied during the storm, while 22 died after the hurricane due to heart attacks, house firescaused by burning candles and other reasons (Booth, Dec. 19, 1989). Many beach resorts that host the tourism industry were ravaged in South Carolina,something U.S. News & World Report said, “validated warnings from geologists,planners and environmentalists against barely controlled coastal development.” SaidOrrin Pilkey, a coastal geologist, “We’ve had 35 years with no storm of real consequenceon the East Coast. This unprecedented gap in hurricane activity has coincided with anunprecedented rush to develop” (Galloway, Oct. 2, 1989). 9
  • 10. In addition to tourism, the timber industry feeds the South Carolina economy.Hurricane Hugo devastated the Francis Marion National Forest and other privately ownedtimberland at a cost of $1 billion. More than four million acres of trees (36 percent of thestate’s forest area) experienced unrecoverable damage, which equaled enough lumber tobuild 660,000 homes. As the third largest manufacturing industry in the state, timberlandowners contributed $4.3 billion annually to the economy in 1988 (Pyatt, Nov. 19, 1989).Power Outages. The severe nature of power outages led to difficult response andrecovery phases of Hurricane Hugo. The power failures disrupted transportation systems,communications and water and wastewater facilities. The primary causes of these lifelinefailures were wind and windblown debris, though storm-surge damage impacted thebarrier islands more than wind. “In many cases, electric utilities had to rebuild systems as opposed to justrepairing them. Approximately 1.5 million customers were without power after thestorm…In many cases, it was 2-3 weeks before service was restored. The magnitude ofdestruction to the electric power infrastructure caused severe hardships on residents andhampered the recovery efforts” (Cook, 1994). Utilities had appropriate preparedness plans to deal with a certain level of damageby Hurricane Hugo, but the storm’s intensity was more than expected. Total damages tothe power companies were estimated at $400 million (Cook, 1994). The key delivery mechanisms that failed were transmission lines, especially thosemade of wood. Those with metal support structures fared just fine, but those made oftimber collapsed due to faulty foundations. Instead of restoring power immediately, thecritical days after Hugo were spent reconstructing infrastructure (Cook, 1994). 10
  • 11. Response and Recovery. The first major storm to strike the area in 35 years showedhow little had been prepared for the aftermath of a hurricane. Local, state and federalofficials experienced many problems in the response phase, partly due to power failuresthat plagued communications, but also partly due to poor planning and interagencycoordination. In South Carolina, understaffed emergency planning offices at the state,county and local levels slowed response efforts, as did the placement of the state’s chiefemergency manager, who was the adjutant general, an independently elected official. Theadjutant general established an operations center as did the governor’s office, creatingtwo levels of confusing coordination. “Initial reports (in the mass media) regarding theaftermath of Hugo in South Carolina indicated serious problems in virtually all horizontaland vertical intergovernmental relationships” (Rubin, 1990). This lack of responseplanning was most evident through FEMA’s efforts.FEMA’s Role. Because of the state’s limited natural disaster experiences, officials didnot have many opportunities to interact with FEMA. Many state officials overestimatedwhat FEMA could do for their localities while many local governments were almostoblivious as to how FEMA could help. As a result, response and recovery efforts werehampered while an instant education was happening on the ground between federal andlocal officials. One local official commented, “It was several days before we understoodwhat all that (process) was” (Lancaster, Oct. 4, 1989). FEMA came under great scrutiny during the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo.Governors, senators, mayors and citizens all heaped complaints on the agency, leadingSen. Fritz Hollings to call it the “biggest bunch of bureaucratic jackasses” (Hall, 1990). 11
  • 12. As FEMA came under attack, so did President Bush. Eight days after Hugo hit, hevisited South Carolina, a trip the media framed as defensive with headlines such as “BushDefends Carolina Relief Efforts” (Weinraub, Sept. 30, 1989). Bush tried to initially marshal the resources of the government when he signed a$1.1 billion relief measure approved by Congress and when he directed $5 million ofDepartment of Commerce funds to Charleston, S.C. (Weinraub, Sept. 30, 1989).However, the problems of a short-staffed FEMA continued, also hampered by the lack ofelectricity to establish Disaster Application Centers (Rubin, 1990). FEMA attempted to defend itself by pointing out that “site assessments” werewaived so a disaster could be declared immediately after the storm (Lancaster, Oct. 4,1989). FEMA leaders also pointed out to the media that the agency carried out its roleaccording to the 1974 Disaster Relief Act, which puts FEMA behind state and localgovernments for assistance. Those governments, according to FEMA, can act on theirown without a presidentially declared disaster, which is the only way FEMA can becomeinvolved after an event (McAllister, Oct. 6, 1989). But FEMA did not help its case, either, when its top official said, “Not too manypeople could even tell you what FEMA was a few days ago, let alone understand ourmission. That’s the way we like it” (McAllister, Oct. 6, 1989). This “agency-in-a-closet”mentality by FEMA’s leadership perhaps underscored the salience the agency gave tocommunicating with people. The media did not help FEMA, either. In a quantitative study of Hugo coverage,56 percent of those interviewed on TV were victims or witnesses, while just 20 percentwere elected officials or spokespersons (Walters, 1993). The coverage of victims telling 12
  • 13. their stories of long lines, no relief and FEMA hurdles probably perpetuated, and in somecases supported, the notion that FEMA was not helpful.Federal Assistance. Individuals are not automatically approved for assistance after ahurricane strikes. Citizens must work through local and state governments, who thenprovide a governor with estimates. Those numbers are then provided to FEMA, who mustappeal to the president for federal disaster assistance. After those declarations are issued,FEMA establishes the Disaster Assistance Centers so people can apply for a variety ofgrants outside of insurance claims (Baker, 1994). However, in South Carolina, the DACs did not open until one week after thestorm, which fueled more outrage toward FEMA. Once opened, the lack of DACs wascriticized, too. Charleston mayor Joseph Riley called FEMA’s decision to open just twoDACs in his relatively large city “absolutely ridiculous” (Weinraub, Sept. 30, 1989). Once the hurdles of delay and eligibility are crossed, funding begins to flow. Butas already stated, residents, elected officials and emergency managers were unaware ofthis somewhat lengthy process, which led to the delays (Baker, 1994). On Oct. 22, 1989,of 23,451 applications for emergency aid of up to $10,000, only 1,939 were approved. Ofmore than 16,000 people who applied for temporary housing, 1,782 received assistance(Applebome, Oct. 22, 1989). Once the process moved along, 37,000 families in South Carolina receivedIndividual and Family Grant (IFG) funds totaling almost $70 million (on average perfamily, $1,900) (Baker, 1994). Temporary housing assistance was provided to 30,000people in South Carolina through FEMA resources. The Small Business Administrationdoled out 8,000 loans equaling $150 million, with 80 percent for individuals. 13
  • 14. Beyond assistance to individuals, FEMA provided resources to state and localgovernments that topped $300 million. More than 80 percent of these funds went toSouth Carolina; North Carolina received funds, too. These funds were essentially dividedin thirds devoted to debris removal, restoration of utilities and for roads, bridges, wastefacilities and government buildings (Baker, 1994). Typically, states are required to pay25 percent of losses, but President Bush waived the requirement for South Carolina,Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (McAllister, Nov. 23, 1989).Poor and Rural Areas. In some rural areas, relief efforts took even longer toestablish. In Berkeley County, the DAC did not open until 10 days after the storm andresidents were told it would be weeks before they would receive funds, making lifeparticularly challenging for those already struggling. Communication was so poor toSouth Carolina residents that many were not aware they could apply for aid, reported TheWashington Post (Lancaster, Oct. 4, 1989). This lengthy response was also highlightedwith headlines in major newspapers that read, “Hurricane Relief Is Said to Skip Poor”and “Pain Lingers for Poorer Victims of Hurricane Hugo.” The outreach to people in rural, poor areas was slowed because of theinfrastructure problems and by the lack of knowledge from state and local leaders. Thislack of knowledge of working with FEMA ultimately led to many citizens being unawareof the agency’s role. One resident in a rural area, asked whether he would apply for FEMA aid, said, “Ihaven’t heard of them” (Lancaster, Oct. 4, 1989). This only slowed relief efforts andcaused more misery for many people, including elected officials. 14
  • 15. This delayed response to rural areas continued for months, according to newsreports in January 1990. “We are 110 days after Hugo. But for many of our families, it’sstill like the day after Hugo,” said the president of a local urban league. Some poorresidents did not apply for aid because they were illiterate, but they continued to live inhomes with large holes in their roofs. (Associated Press, Jan. 13, 1990). This inattentionto poorer communities helps feed concerns of FEMA and local governmentinefficiencies, but it also raised awareness of response to poorer communities.FEMA Beyond South Carolina. While FEMA’s work on the ground was movingslowly and criticized heavily, FEMA officials also were in Puerto Rico and the VirginIslands assisting those nations. So before even coming into South Carolina, FEMAexperienced short staffs upon already short staffs. Meanwhile, on Oct. 17, 1989, 25 daysafter Hugo hit South Carolina, the Loma Prieta earthquake struck California with a 7.1magnitude, forcing FEMA to reassess its personnel in the Caribbean and the Carolinas. These overlapping, major disasters overwhelmed FEMA with 390,000applications for aid in less than one month. Additionally, one year after the Californiaearthquake, 39 federal emergencies were declared, more than twice the annual number(Cushman, Oct. 21, 1990). These disasters put a major strain on an already challengedsystem. “The dual disasters were a ‘one in a hundred year event...We were reallystretched” (Squitieri, Oct. 26, 1989).Disasters and Politics. All disasters are political and in this case, state and localofficials were competing for attention. Wrote one researcher studying an example ofresponse efforts, “...South Carolina’s governor was a Republican and Charleston’s mayorwas a Democrat. Moreover, the mayor was rumored to be a candidate for governor, and 15
  • 16. several other impacted counties also had Democratic administrations” (Rubin, 1990).Because of this, FEMA and other organizations experienced difficulties in finding onecommon page from which to work in response and recovery. At the federal level, FEMA’s culture and President Bush’s inattention to theagency rose to the forefront. After President Bush was inaugurated in 1989, he did notappoint a FEMA director. Instead, according to Senate Democrats, seven of the eightmost senior positions at FEMA remained vacant or filled by acting officials from theReagan years, so temporary leaders guided the response to dual disasters. Rep. Tom Ridge (R-PA) said, “I have told the White House to get a move on. IfFEMA is virtually rudderless, you can’t expect the course to be very direct” (Squitieri,Oct. 26, 1989). In March of 1990, six months after Hugo and the California earthquake,Bush nominated Wallace Stickney as director. Political opponents and emergency managers also questioned the credentials ofFEMA officials after Hugo, Loma Prieta and Hurricane Andrew in 1992. “Critics callFEMA a ‘dumping ground’ for lackluster presidential appointees, a charge the Bushadministration denies. Yet, of the 21 political appointees who hold most of the top jobs,half had no background in emergency management” (Christensen, Sept. 12, 1992).Lessons Learned Clearly, Hugo was an instructive storm for many reasons. The participants duringthe hurricane, including those mentioned in this study and those not cited such as theAmerican Red Cross, evaluated their roles during Hugo. One of the clearest lessonslearned was the importance of evacuation. If local governments did not evacuate thebarrier islands and other parts of South Carolina, the human tragedy could have been far 16
  • 17. more extensive. South Carolina followed its evacuation for Hugo with orders to leaveduring hurricanes Fran, Bertha and Bonnie (Yellin, Aug. 29, 1999). FEMA learned the lessons of responding more rapidly and in more flexible ways.Hugo truly set the course for FEMA’s image, which, in a few short weeks, was batteredand bruised. When the Loma Prieta earthquake struck California, “the speed of responsein California probably was due in part to the criticism it took for its sluggish response toHurricane Hugo,” reported The New York Times (Cushman, Oct. 21, 1990). Rep. NancyPelosi (D-CA) said FEMA acted quickly and completed tasks well in California,especially given the fact that earthquakes provide no warning unlike hurricanes. President Bush learned the value of a better-organized agency as he nominated apermanent director in March 1990. A permanent director provided the direction Rep.Tom Ridge was looking for, as well as a boost in morale. However, when HurricaneAndrew struck Florida in 1992, FEMA was once again slow to respond and heavilycriticized. President Bill Clinton learned the value of FEMA leadership when in 1993 henominated James Lee Witt, an emergency manager in Arkansas, to head the organizationto a renaissance of credibility in the 1990s. FEMA’s mounds of paperwork also changed after Hugo (and the Californiaearthquake), when the agency changed over to a computerized system for takingapplications for assistance. This plan, a key lesson learned, was intended to minimize thedelays that the FEMA associate director said were “agonizingly tedious” (Cushman, Oct.21, 1990). One resident recounted that it took two years and a stack of forms “a foot tall”to get aid from FEMA (Mercer, Sept. 27, 1997). The lessons learned continued years laterwhen the Midwest Floods of 1993 hit. Toll-free telephone numbers were established for 17
  • 18. people to receive aid, with more than 75 percent of applicants requesting assistancethrough the phone, dramatically reducing long lines and the time it takes to establishcenters. Also during the floods, FEMA distributed report cards for the community to fillout citing the agency’s response (Claiborne, Aug. 13, 1993). Among other steps post-Hugo, this led to greater coordination and understanding between governments. FEMA’s culture was changing away from the pre-Hugo attitude of “we don’twant anyone knowing about us” to a more proactive, robust agency able to respond todisasters in more timely and compassionate ways. State and local governments have thelead in disasters, but the federal government plays a key role that FEMA, during Hugo,failed to perceive because of its rules and regulations. FEMA did not recognize the speedwith which people want to get back on their feet and rebuild. FEMA underestimatedpublic outcry and defended itself, thinking only within predefined paradigms and notoutside the lines, in terms of a quicker response, to meet the needs of a major naturaldisaster. Waiting 10 days to open a disaster center, followed by reams of paperwork, didnot inspire confidence in the agency. As one official in South Carolina said, “You don’tput procedure first, you put the needs of people first” (Lancaster, Oct. 3, 1989). Thebiggest lesson learned during Hugo was FEMA’s response, though FEMA did not learnall of its lessons because of the slow response to Hurricane Andrew, which causedPresident Bush to name his transportation secretary to oversee the response and recovery.A report issued to Congress after Hugo, Andrew and the Loma Prieta earthquake said,“FEMA is like a patient on triage. The president and Congress must decide to treat it orlet it die” (Hill, June 2, 1993). A congressman from California introduced legislation toabolish FEMA and put its responsibilities under the military (Lochhead, Sept. 16, 1993). 18
  • 19. However, slowly, but surely using a customer-service model, FEMA has dispelledthe demons of its response to Hugo. The Miami Herald cited seven lessons learned from Hurricane Hugo and amongthose listed, one was troubling and still true today: “People never learn from pastdisasters” (Miami Herald, Sept. 13, 1992). Despite Hugo’s damage, most areas have been rebuilt. Despite the miseriessuffered by people, most communities have rebounded with structures in that harm’s wayof future hurricanes. Despite all of the aid from the federal government and all privatedollars spent on response and recovery, people continue to flock to the Carolinas to work,live and play. When a future hurricane strikes the area again, more damage willpotentially occur and more dollars will be necessary for a cleanup. Three months after Hugo, FEMA argued for a stricter Beach Management Act ina report, which claimed it “is crucial that the concept of a gradual, strategic retreat fromthe ocean remain a part of coastal management.” The report also cited the lack of uniformbuilding codes in South Carolina (Engineering News Record, Dec. 7, 1989). Fixing the position of beaches also came under attack, but is a lesson stillignored. Spending millions of dollars to build sea walls and replenish beaches “may befutile in resisting nature’s unceasing impulse to push barrier islands toward the mainland”(Schmitt, Feb. 6, 1990). But shortly after Hugo, a $1.3 million beach renourishment project was completedalong 40 miles of coastline, including Myrtle Beach (Mayfield, March 28, 1990). Threeyears later, Folly Beach spent $16 million on a beach-replenishing project (Applebome,Sept. 18, 1992). One major reason associated with these projects is tourism. South 19
  • 20. Carolina officials reported that more than 90 percent of beach homes damaged by Hugowill be rebuilt on the original location. One geology professor at Duke University said,“By most standards, that type of behavior would be classified as insanity.” The head ofthe state’s coastal council compared post-Hugo building to post-Hazel, with peopleflocking right back to the beaches (McAllister, April 9, 1990). But money from insurancehelped people pay to rebuild after Hugo, sometimes with better structures. There are many answers in trying to determine why people do not learn fromdisasters. Some people cited facts that hurricanes don’t strike very often and when theydo, there’s often a gap until the next one. One resident who rebuilt on shifting sand said,“It’s just like people who live on the Mississippi River. There’s no way you can fight theinevitable, so why worry about it?” (Parker, Sept. 16, 1990). But levels of destruction are “directly related to the level of coastal development,”where disasters are practically invited to shore (Leatherman, 1994). However, withtourism as the No. 1 industry along the shores of Carolina and around the country, it ishard to imagine that coastal development would slow down because of the delicatebalancing act between money, politics and nature. Perhaps this is not a lesson learned forthose trying to infuse mitigation practices, but rather “lessons lamented.”Conclusion Mitigation did not play and does not continue to play a major role in SouthCarolina and other coastal areas. After each hurricane, states are required to develop ahazard mitigation plan, but because of the messy response efforts in the area, such a planwas not delivered for one year. This made response and recovery efforts independent ofany mitigation tactics for the next hurricane. 20
  • 21. This lack of attention to nature because of the pursuit for economic developmentwill continue to haunt Charleston and other popular coastal communities. Hurricanes arenot going away and neither are human beings. In fact, as outlined in the paper,populations are exploding along beaches, which helps those local economies. SouthCarolina eventually rebounded from Hugo, primarily due to people’s quest to visit beachcommunities. Hurricane Hugo taught FEMA a lesson in being more responsive to disasters,and, in general, its efforts have improved remarkably. Coordination with localgovernments has also appeared to improve for natural disasters. However, Hurricane Hugo did not teach the lesson of mitigation to residents, stateofficials or the federal government. Money and politics hold the keys to lessoning theimpact of hurricanes on coastal communities, but so does willpower. Slowly, somecommunities are taking matters into their own hands and planning in smarter ways, butnow money for terrorism preparedness and response competes for attention. But untilthere is a concerted effort at the federal or state level for natural disaster mitigation, thelevel of damage and the cost of hurricanes will continue to increase. Even smallerhurricanes than Hugo, like Isabel in 2004, cause enormous amounts of damage becausemore structures are in the eye of a hurricane, tornado and other disasters. The subsidizingof land and structures on the coast should be re-examined because the potential economicbenefits could be reduced to nothing when the next storm spins through a coastal town. 21
  • 22. List of ReferencesApplebome, Peter. “After Hugo, a Storm Over Beach Development.” The New YorkTimes, September 24, 1989.Applebome, Peter. “Hugo Shows How to Save Lives While Much Is Lost.” The NewYork Times, October 1, 1989.Applebome, Peter. “For Victims of the Hurricane, Pain and Uncertainty Linger.” TheNew York Times, October 22, 1989.Applebome, Peter. “Hugo’s 3-Year Wake: Lessons of a Hurricane.” The New YorkTimes, September 18, 1992.Baker, Earl. “Hurricane Hugo, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Charleston, SouthCarolina, September 17-22, 1989 (Chapter 8).” The National Academy of Sciences, 1994.Baker, Earl. “Hurricane Hugo, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Charleston, SouthCarolina, September 17-22, 1989 (Chapter 10: Warning and Response).” The NationalAcademy of Sciences, 1994.Booth, William. “Hazards Were High in Hugo’s Wake.” The Washington Post,December 19, 1989.Christensen, Mike. “It’s Politics Over Skill at Disaster Relief Agency.” Atlanta Journaland Constitution, September 12, 1992.Claiborne, William. “More Welcome Than Disaster; For Once – in Midwest – FEMA IsRelatively Well Received.” The Washington Post, August 13, 1993.Cook, Ronald. “Hurricane Hugo, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Charleston, SouthCarolina, September 17-22, 1989 (Chapter 14: Lifelines).” The National Academy ofSciences, 1994.Cushman, John. “A Change in Procedures for Emergency Agency.” The New YorkTimes, October 21, 1990.Devroy, Ann. “Sununu Picks Ex-Aide as FEMA Chief.” The Washington Post, March23, 1990.“FEMA Endorses Beach Act.” Engineering News-Record, December 7, 1989.Galloway, Joseph. “The Brutal Lesson of Hurricane Hugo.” U.S. News & World Report,October 2, 1989.Hall, Mimi. “Agency Studies Hugo’s Lessons.” USA Today, September 20, 1990. 22
  • 23. Hill, John. “Agency May Be Ready Next Time.” Times Picayune, June 2, 1993.“Hurricane Relief Is Said to Skip Many Poor.” Associated Press, January 13, 1990.Lancaster, John. “Lag in U.S. Aid Angers Hugo Victims; Relief Centers Open, butApplicants Face Long Waits.” The Washington Post, October 4, 1989.Leatherman, Stephen. “Hurricane Hugo, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Charleston,South Carolina, September 17-22, 1989 (Chapter 11: Coastal Processes).” The NationalAcademy of Sciences, 1994.Lochhead, Carolyn. “Pete Stark Withdraws House Bill to End FEMA.” The SanFrancisco Chronicle, September 16, 1993.Manning, Billy. “Hurricane Hugo, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Charleston, SouthCarolina, September 17-22, 1989 (Chapter 13: Wind Damage to Buildings andStructures).” The National Academy of Sciences, 1994.Mayfield, Mark. “Sacked S.C. Bounces Back.” USA Today, March 28, 1990.Mayfield, Mark. “Recovery From Storm Is Steady, Painful.” USA Today, September 20,1990.McAllister, Bill. “FEMA Officials Admit Response to Hugo Was Slow.” TheWashington Post, October 6, 1989.McAllister, Bill. “Bush Waives Hurricane Cleanup Costs.” The Washington Post,November 23, 1989.McAllister, Bill. “A Hurricane’s Fury Fast Forgotten.” The Washington Post, April 9,1990.Mercer, Marsha. “After Disaster.” The Tampa Tribune, September 24, 1997.Parker, Laura. “Rebirth, Ongoing Adversity a Year After Hugo.” The Washington Post,September 16, 1990.Pielke, Roger A. “Reframing the U.S. Hurricane Problem.” Society & Natural Resources,September/October 1997.Platt, Rutherford, Timothy Beatley and Crane Miller. “The Folly at Folly Beach andOther Failings of the U.S. Coastal Erosion Policy.” Environment, November 1991.Pyatt, Rudolph. “Two Months Later, Hugo Still Packs a Punch.” The Washington Post,November 19, 1989. 23
  • 24. Rubin, Claire and Roy Popkin. “Disaster Recovery After Hurricane Hugo in SouthCarolina.” Natural Hazard Research Working Paper #69, University of Colorado, January1990.Schmitt, Eric. “Big What If: How Hugo Might Hit L.I.” The New York Times, February9, 1990.“Seven Bold Lessons From Hugo.” The Miami Herald, September 13, 1992.Squitieri, Tom. “FEMA Still Is Digging Out From Criticism.” USA Today, October 26,1989.Walters, Lynne Masel and Susanna Hornig. “Faces In the News: Network TelevisionCoverage of Hurricane Hugo and the Loma Prieta Earthquake.” Journal of Broadcasting& Electronic Media, Spring 1993.Weinraub, Bernard. “Bush Defends Carolina Relief Efforts.” The New York Times,September 30, 1989.Yellin, Emily. “Hurricane Gathers Force on Path Toward Carolinas.” The New YorkTimes, August 29, 1999. 24