As Hurricane Michael moves further inland, bringing torrential rains and high winds with it, those who were most vulnerable before the storm are going to need the most assistance in its aftermath. This is a mantra that is relevant to hurricanes and other disasters. This is also well-described in research focusing on disproportional impact and recovery of vulnerable populations. But to really have that principle influence and improve disaster planning and response, we need a richer understanding of these vulnerabilities and better tools to incorporate them into the planning process.
There is clearly a range of conditions that exacerbate vulnerability, including proximity to environmental hazards that may become disrupted by a major disaster leading to long-term contamination of soil or drinking water. This can be the result of toxins that escape from superfund sites as well as agricultural and energy production byproducts. Industrial facilities, chemical warehouses, and even a large concentration of cars and heavy equipment can leach petrochemicals in flooded areas.