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Evaluating the unequal impacts of Hurricane Harvey : Critical GIS analysis in systems of governmental risk assessment and mitigation in Houston, Texas

Authors: Mustafa Monk*, Mississippi State University
Topics: Hazards and Vulnerability, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Geographic Information Science and Systems
Keywords: Hurricane Harvey, Hazards, Risk, Critical GIS, GIS, Real Estate
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper uses the catastrophic flooding driven by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and the long history of inundation in the city of Houston to critique the systems of floodplain mapping and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The role of Geographic Information Systems in generating authoritative spatial knowledge on risk becomes a subject of interest in the context of neoliberal governance and the role of property as a driving force in urban development. The shortcomings of existing systems of risk mitigation and recovery are examined through mappings that bring measures of risk, damage, and recovery into contrast with each other. Racial and economic inequality is an element that becomes integrated into the analysis through a deeper consideration of the National Flood Insurance Program and the existence of flood insurance as main form of federal protection against losses. In focusing on home ownership and property, this work visualizes the shortcomings of the NFIP in protecting pre-storm patterns of living, visualized in the unequal access to property as a resource that individuals can manage in crisis situations, and the market-driven pressures that widely alter the value of buildings and property in the aftermath of a disaster. In assigning zones of probability and risk, this paper argues that the NFIP affects public perceptions of risk because floodplain mapping is done within the logic of home insurance, leading to observable inequalities in preparation and recovery.

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