Could Washington, D.C. survive if a major hurricane hits?

Parts of the United States and the Caribbean have been devastated by severe weather over the last several weeks. Major hurricanes, water surges and flooding have caused unimaginable damage and have left hundreds dead.

A new and alarming article in Rolling Stone examines a disturbing scenario in which a superstorm would put many of Washington, D.C.'s government buildings and monuments underwater.

Sandra Knight, a specialist in flood risk management who is with the University of Maryland's Center for Disaster Resilience, joined us Friday to discuss how realistic that scenario is.

While the likelihood of a Category 5 hurricane in the District isn't likely because of the cooler water in the higher latitudes, the possibility of a hurricane that is strong and brings lots of winds is a threat.

"You can always have compound events," Knight said. "The river could be flooding. You could have this heavy rainfall which then floods the interior of our city and has no way to escape. You also maybe have high tide and surge from hurricane."

Knight says a little known levee system in D.C. that was designed to prevent flooding may not be enough to contain a major storm. Vulnerabilities are numerous, she said.

"Zoning, building codes, those are the things that prepare us for the long range," she said. "Short range - we have to figure out evacuation and do all the things that you do when you're prepared."

Knight says all agencies need to work together and future developments need to be carefully planned.


What Happens When a Superstorm Hits D.C.? | Rolling Stone |