Planning expert can discuss how Tropical Storm Isaias, pandemic collide

LAWRENCE — Tropical Storm Isaias continued to lash the East Coast Tuesday morning, threatening the mid-Atlantic with high winds, heavy rain and flooding. While it was downgraded since it made landfall as a hurricane in North Carolina, it is knocking out power for thousands and causing damage while residents continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ward Lyles, associate professor in the University of Kansas School of Public Affairs & Administration, is available to speak with media about the storm, resulting damage, built environment in the affected areas, the coinciding timing of the pandemic, the nature of dealing with multiple disasters and related topics. He specializes in the study of humans’ interactions with their natural and built environments.

Lyles is currently conducting two research projects funded by the National Science Foundation examining how local communities reduce long-term risk from disaster events. One focuses on how local communities along the southeastern United States' Atlantic coast are linking pre-disaster planning and recovery efforts, with particular attention to how communities dealt with back-to-back hurricanes Matthew and Florence. Isaias, on top of COVID-19, only further complicates the challenges.

“Hurricane Isaias, coming on the heels of hurricanes Matthew and Florence, and on top of COVID, drives home the challenges of our climate change reality,” Lyles said. “Disasters cannot be treated as one-off, isolated events that individuals and communities simply bounce back from with a little outside help, which was a myth from the beginning. Instead, we must understand disasters as products of our social and economic choices, and we absolutely must revisit the fundamental errors in some of our assumptions about where we safely can put people, buildings and infrastructure.”

Lyles’ research examines local, collaborative efforts to reduce risks from natural hazards, including hurricanes, floods and other hazards exacerbated by climate change. He teaches courses in sustainable land use, hazards and disasters, compassionate public service and how diversity, equity and inclusion play a role in all of them. He has published numerous scholarly articles on planning, including how empathy and care should play a central role in public planning, how failure to address long-term land-use issues makes certain areas vulnerable to hurricanes and flooding, reducing risk from natural hazards and how cities can adapt to climate change.

To schedule an interview, contact Mike Krings at or @MikeKrings.

Tue, 08/04/2020


Mike Krings

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