Coastal Zone Growth Places Millions in Hazard Areas
WASHINGTON More than half of all Americans live on or near the nation's coastal areas, and the number is growing, posing a challenge for emergency management officials in the event of hurricanes, tsunamis and other natural disasters, federal officials said Tuesday.
Coastal area growth also poses environmental and economic challenges to local governments, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in a report on coastal population trends.
Whether it's tsunamis on the West Coast or hurricanes and other storms in the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, rising populations complicate evacuations and make emergency response more complex, officials said.
Vertical evacuation -- moving people upstairs in taller structures -- is a possibility in some areas, like those at risk of tsunamis, said Richard Spinrad, director of NOAA's National Ocean Service. Vertical evacuation has also been proposed in areas such as New Orleans where hurricanes or floods could threaten large urban areas with limited evacuation opportunities.
Overall, the new study said 153 million people live in coastal counties, an increase of 33 million since 1980. And the area is expected to add another 12 million by 2015.
This growth includes many middle-aged people and those nearing retirement age and is also likely to pose problems to environmental management, urban development and providing services to new residents.
Source: Associated Press