In September 2020, hazardous wildfire smoke blanketed Portland, Oregon.
That winter, a major snow and ice storm knocked down trees and power lines, paralyzing the city.
Just four months later, a record-breaking heat wave caused about 70 deaths in Portland alone.
“What I’m realizing in my research … is that these hazards are no longer isolated and that we’re getting many of these hazards — sometimes … in just a short period of one another,” says Jola Ajibade, an associate professor at Emory University, who was previously at Portland State.
She says when disasters occur back-to-back, it becomes even harder for people to cope — especially those with few financial resources.
“So you’re thinking, ‘OK, we’ve just dealt with wildfires, we’re trying to recover.’ But before you could even recover from it, another incident happened and so you don’t ever quite get back to that level that you were before,” she says.
And it strains a community’s ability to provide emergency assistance and disaster relief.
But consecutive and cascading disasters are becoming more common in a warming world.
So she says cities need to identify their most vulnerable people and develop plans and policies to protect and support them.
Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media