Surfrider Foundation Issues Statement on Hurricane Matthew

October 06 2016

As Hurricane Matthew makes its way to landfall in Florida, this powerful hurricane will likely have catastrophic impacts on our coasts and those who call it home in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. More than 1.5 million Floridians are in evacuation zones, and many more on the Atlantic Coast are watching Matthew’s path to determine whether they evacuate or shelter in place.  

While this massive super-storm is an extremely rare event that cannot be directly blamed on climate change, our warming oceans are creating the latent potential for more frequent and impactful storms. When powerful storms combine with increased sea level rise and intense coastal development, they provide the ingredients for massive destruction, loss of life and major economic impacts.

When responding to natural disasters and extreme weather events like Hurricane Matthew, the Surfrider Foundation employs a three-step approach: assisting with cleanup efforts; advocating for low impact coastal erosion response; and advocating for long-term climate change adaptation planning.

Once the storm calms, the Surfrider Foundation will employ its local and knowledgeable network of volunteers to support prompt disaster relief responses.

All cleanup and disaster response efforts will be organized with our Surfrider chapters in coordination with the appropriate state agencies and disaster relief organizations.

As the time approaches to clean up and rebuild, the Surfrider Foundation urges leaders to resist the inclination to proclaim that we will “build it all back” but instead pause to consider our future with a warming ocean and increased sea level rise and plan for a coast of the future that is resilient to future weather events.

In the short term, the sentiment is often to rebuild or immediately armor the coast through emergency permits. While this is politically appealing, it can often lead to over-engineering of the coast that will create long-term impacts. Given time, the shoreline and dunes often redevelop naturally, so taking time to respond to short-term erosion or flooding can provide a window for more long-term strategies.  

Recovery efforts following extreme weather events provide an opportunity to improve poorly planned or dated development issues and inadequate infrastructure. The Surfrider Foundation will continue to push local, state and federal governments to reduce risk to public assets and adjacent natural habitats by limiting shoreline development and locating public infrastructure out of the pathway of the sea and the dynamic shoreline.

The Surfrider Foundation will update when our chapters organize cleanup efforts.