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Journalism in the Public Interest

The Best MuckReads on the Gulf Coast’s Hurricane Threat

Is the Gulf Coast prepared for the next big storm? Here’s some of the best reporting we’ve seen on the continuing dangers that hurricanes pose to America’s southern coast

A view of the San Jacinto Monument at the San Jacinto battleground, where Texas won independence from Mexico, with the Exxon Mobil refinery in the background on November 10, 2015. (Edmund D. Fountain, special to ProPublica)

On Thursday, ProPublica launched a new investigation with The Texas Tribune, "Hell and High Water," which looks at the possibly cataclysmic effects of the next big storm to hit Houston. We've rounded up some of the best reporting on major storms, and warnings about their deadly impact. See any that we missed? Share them below in the comments.

Washing Away, New Orleans Times-Picayune, June 2002

This harrowing five-part series examined the imminent hurricane threat faced by New Orleans residents, and how the city's levee system could ultimately work against it. When Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans in 2005, that's just what happened.

The New Levees: Just Good Enough, The Lens/The Weather Channel, August 2015

New Orleans' $14.5 billion new levee system was designed to repel a 100-year storm, and is "bigger and stronger" than the one that failed during Hurricane Katrina. But experts now say the city actually needs a 500-year storm system. And even then, as one engineer said, "it won't remove the only true way to protect lives when a storm approaches‚ "Getting people out of the way."

Losing Ground, ProPublica/The Lens, August 2014

Louisiana's coastline is disappearing at an astonishing rate — nearly a football field every 48 minutes. In the 1930’s, the Louisiana coast was “about 25% bigger than it is now.” If it keeps sinking at this rate, much of the southeastern coast will be a part of the Gulf of Mexico within 50 years.

Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, Vintage Books

No one saw the deadliest hurricane in American history coming. When it was over, the Great Galveston Hurricane — as it came to be known — left more than 6,000 people dead and thousands of homes destroyed. This book examines what happens when "human arrogance meets the great uncontrollable force of nature" through the letters, reports, telegrams of U.S. Weather Bureau meteorologist Isaac Cline and testimonies of survivors.

The Calm Before the Storm, Texas Monthly, August 2015

After Hurricane Ike in 2008, researchers pitched the "Ike Dike" to politicians and business leaders as a way to better protect residents and the Houston Ship Channel from a "monster hurricane." But the proposal hasn't gained traction as some officials have written it off as "a waste of time."

Models show 'massive devastation' in Houston, Houston Chronicle, May 2005

How much will the next big storm cost Houston? According to this article, $40 to $50 billion in damages, or "the entire budget of the city of Houston for the next 15 years," not to mention hundreds — if not thousands — of lives lost.

For chemical disaster, just add storm surge, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, September 2010

The Gulf Coast of Texas is home to millions of toxic petrochemicals that are just a storm surge away from being washed into the ocean. If a big storm were to hit the region, the "[l]eakage would be enormous and it would be a major disaster," according to Phil Bedient, a civil engineering professor at Rice University.

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