Assessing and Planning for the Impacts of Storms, Flooding and Sea Level Rise on Vulnerable Gulf of Mexico Coastal Communities: A White Paper

Lynn D. Wright, Economic Research Associates
Kiki Caruson, University of South Florida, Tampa
Christopher D'Elia, Louisiana State University
Jerry Draayer, Economic Research Associates
Reid Nichols, Marine Inforamtion Resource Corporation
Robert Weiss, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Gary Zarillo, Florida Institute of Technology


Vulnerable coastal communities in low-lying and flood-prone areas are subject to water-borne health hazards that often linger well after the storm subsides. Risk-informed decision making is crucial, but for the resulting information to be actionable, it must be effectively and promptly communicated to planners, decision makers and emergency managers in readily understood terms and formats. Projections of human and physical factors that affect community vulnerability are essential to support long-range planning for climate change and sea level rise. The states of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas all have extensive Low Elevation Coastal Zones (LECZ) bordering the Gulf of Mexico where the wide, shallow and low-gradient continental shelf causes pronounced amplification of storm surges. These surges are often accompanied by heavy rains and compound flooding and are superimposed on a background of rising sea level and land subsidence. In some cases, long-range plans require relocation of entire communities. The strategies required to resettle, or protect, threatened or displaced communities and help them adapt to change requires highly informed and careful communication.