Hurricane Laura is now the talk of the country as it has become the latest worry in a year that has seen global pandemics, foreign tensions, and wildfires, among other concerns that seemed to be the topic of daily conversations. At its peak, Hurricane Laura was designated a Category 5 Hurricane, putting it on pace with devastating storms like Hurricane Katrina. As of the time of writing, the losses mounted by Hurricane Laura include 10 lives and the damages caused are in excess of $12 billion. Yet the environment seems to also be suffering as a result of the Hurricane. One would assume that factories shutting down and cars off roads would improve air quality in the surrounding region, but in reality, it seems to be doing the opposite.
Louisiana and Texas, which are the two main states experiencing the devastation of Hurricane Laura, are industrial powerhouses, meaning their state economy consists mainly of industrial processes including factories. Foreseeing upcoming declines in production as a result of imminent closures by the Hurricane, factories have been ramping up their production 2 days ahead of the Hurricane, causing an estimated 4 million pounds of additional pollution added to the surrounding environment.
State and local leaders state that it is standard procedure in the face of a hurricane as factories are forced to go into mandatory shutdown mode. To make up for the lost time, they increase the production in the days leading up to the hurricane.
What’s concerning though, is that there is no way to monitor what this increased pollution in a short duration has on the surrounding environment. As a result of the hurricane, state-wide air quality monitors, much like the factories, will be shut down. So, scientists and experts will not know what steps to take until the hurricane passes. Like past hurricanes, Hurricane Laura has caused fires at surrounding power plants leading to another level of greater pollution.
History tells us that the majority of the time, the air quality does not jump to incredible unsafe levels, though still, residents should take caution. However, in some cases, toxic waste and chemicals have been spread as a result of a hurricane passing through a city that makes the air quality unsafe for breathing. With evacuations in the surrounding area, the concern now only lies with how long it will take for the pollution to dissipate.
As Hurricane Laura continues on, the prior pollution and the pollution caused by the storm will be important to consider for citizens as they get back on their fight. With a great degree of uncertainty with the hurricane and the effects of the pollution levels, only time will tell what the effects will be in relation to the climate.