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The Vulnerable Communities in Harvey's Path, Mapped
AUG 26, 2017
Aid organization Direct Relief has created maps using ESRI that show the poor, immigrant, elderly and disabled communities in harm’s way.
Updated on August 27 at 3:30 p.m.
At least five deaths and dozens of injuries have been attributed to Hurricane Harvey, as it pummeled parts of the Houston region with 24 inches of rain and swirling winds. The storm has been downgraded to a tropical storm, from a Category 4 at its height, but catastrophic flooding is expected to intensify as rains continue, according to the National Weather Service.
Like in the case of previous disasters like Katrina and Sandy, the heaviest cost of Harvey’s destruction is likely going to be borne by the most vulnerable communities in its path. Here’s what disaster historian Jacob Remes tweeted out about Harvey:
Humanitarian aid organization Direct Relief has created interactive ESRI maps that show exactly where these communities are. The mapmakers have used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) social vulnerability index to show the geographic distribution of households with elderly or disabled members (in orange), immigrant and limited English-speaking populations (in purple), and pockets of poverty (in green). The darker the color, the higher the concentration of these factors in each region:
Click through for a closer look.
While many South Texans evacuated north per the recommendation of Governor Greg Abbott, poorer or disabled residents may not have had the resources or the capability to follow that advice. Many undocumented immigrants, as well, may have chosen to stay behind because Border Patrol refused to suspend its checkpoints during the storm. (The governor did affirm, however, that shelters will be exempt from immigration enforcement.) Some inmates were evacuated, while others are weathering the storm in place.
Within cities, poor communities of color often live in segregated neighborhoods that are most vulnerable to flooding, or near petrochemical plants and Superfund sites that can overflow during the storm. This is especially true for Houston—a sprawling metropolis, where new development has long been spreading thinly across prairie lands that help absorb excess rainwater. And it’s long been understood that the city is unprepared to handle the effects of a storm as unprecedented as this one.