Why Historic Preservation Needs to Be Part of Disaster Planning
Natural disasters have taken a heavy toll on historic landmarks around the U.S. When Hurricane Katrina swept through parts of New Orleans in 2005, floods damaged 19th- and 20th-century buildings, causing some to collapse. High winds smashed windows and stripped away the outer layers of houses, shops, and museums. More recently, Hurricane Sandy took down monuments in the 1849 Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn and damaged the electrical system of the Fraunces Tavern Museum—which dates back to the American Revolution—in Manhattan.
Between rising sea levels, predictions of increasingly extreme weather patterns, and the Big One always looming over the West, the U.S. is bracing itself for more natural disasters. But a recent report out of the University of Colorado Denver and University of Kentucky finds that the U.S. may not be as prepared as it could be to protect historic sites from floods, wildfires, and tornadoes. In fact, almost two thirds of all states lack historic-preservation goals and strategies in their disaster plans.