Hurricane victims face long, uncertain road to recovery

HtCLowQ8_400x400Families displaced by Hurricane Florence will face “months and months” of financial hardship, according to Gies College of Business finance professor Tatyana Deryugina.

Deryugina, an expert on natural disasters and their financial impacts on families, emphasized that even after the floodwaters recede, it could be awhile before residents return to life as normal.

“If you have kids, there’s the school closures – so parents might have to figure out what to do with their children in the meantime,” Deryugina said. “Even if your workplace is open, you may not be able to go back and work. Building materials will be expensive in the short-term. A lot of people rebuilding causes supply issues.”

Those who choose to rebuild may not be out of the woods once their home is finished. Deryugina believes the home values will decrease for families who live in the coastal areas that were hit.

“Even if you rebuild, and it looks nice and new, people are going to remember this event,” said Deryugina, who has taught at the University of Illinois since 2011. “Not only are you going to face building and repair costs, but now your home is worth less than it was before.”

Emergency officials in the Carolinas ordered a new round of evacuations Friday, almost a week after Florence first made landfall. South Carolina governor Henry McMaster called it the worst disaster in the state’s modern history, estimating flood damage at $1.2 billion. North Carolina’s governor said the damage in his state will add up to billions of dollars as well. Florence is blamed for at least 42 deaths and more than 900,000 power outages.

“What we’re seeing with Florence is rivers overflowing, which is worse than just having the floodwater accumulate from the heavy rain because that’s going to be longer-lasting,” said Deryugina.

Deryugina stresses the key factor to watch is how long it takes for floodwaters to recede. That will determine how many people return to the area and how the area itself recovers. She cited her earlier research on Hurricane Katrina and its effect on New Orleans.

“New Orleans was below sea level, so the flooding just persisted,” she said. “The longer areas stay uninhabitable, the more people are going to leave and just not return. If you’re somewhere for a couple months, it becomes much easier to stay there.”