Addressing uncertainty and building resilience

This week has been an incredibly challenging one from a meteorological standpoint. Hurricane Ida has wreaked havoc on a wide swath of eastern America, coming ashore in New Orleans and creating flooding in the south, the Appalachians, the mid-Atlantic, and New England.

Metropolitan New York City had its wettest day on record (at both New York LaGuardia and Newark/New York Liberty international airports). The National Weather Service issued its first flash flood emergencies – ever – for both New York and metro New Jersey.

Meanwhile southern Louisiana was devastated, with Grand Isle, its last inhabited barrier island, having lost between 40-50% of its homes.

The City of New Orleans is slowly recovering, with electricity service beginning to be restored.

One article that caught my eye was Time magazine’s piece today about hurricane preparations for New Orleans by the US Army Corps of Engineers — years before Ida hit.

The title:  “U.S. Civil Engineers Bent the Rules to Give New Orleans Extra Protection from Hurricanes. Those Adjustments Might Have Saved the City During Ida”. It is worth the read.

My thoughts are simply this: in a changing world — whether we are talking pandemics, population growth, work from home, climate change, and so on — our initial assumptions and past experiences may no longer hold.

To put a finer point on it:  when you are making any decision, you have to ask yourself the basic question “What if I am wrong?” Inherent in that question is identifying, elevating, and grappling with assumptions, some of which you may not realize you are making.

The civil engineers who designed an updated flood protection system to secure The Big Easy from hurricanes questioned assumptions and embedded a series of factors of safety. They just survived a category 4 hurricane.

As a business leadership group, we want cost effectiveness, and we don’t want to see too much spent on any project. However, we also will ask the question — what if we don’t spend enough? What do we give up in terms of quality of service, quality of life, or resilience?

These are good questions, that we and our partners will continue to ask.


Joe Milazzo II, PE
RTA executive director

RTA is the voice of the regional business community on transportation in the Research Triangle area.
RTA represents more than 100 leading businesses and 25 member chambers of commerce in central and eastern North Carolina.




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