SIU student, professor research post-Harvey recovery efforts - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

SIU student, professor research post-Harvey recovery efforts

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WSIL -- Hurricane Harvey devastated the Texas coast in August 2017. The category four storm caused more than $150 billion in damage, but one SIU student and her professor are studying what other impacts this massive storm had on the people who survived it.

Hurricane Harvey set the record for most rainfall in a single storm dumping more than 50 inches of rain in parts of Texas. The rainfall led to devastating flooding but SIU researchers say social circumstances made the impact much worse for some residents. 

Grace Vargas, an undergraduate student researching the aftermath says, "People felt very confused, very alone, it was almost a kind of free for all in the aftermath."

Vargas and her co-researcher, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Roberto Barrios, say because Houston is such a diverse city, not everyone experiences a disaster in the same way.

Barrios says people in West Houston faced the issue of not having flood insurance because they weren't encouraged to get it, and on the other side of the city, "In East Houston we talked to people who reported to us that there was very little communication between them and city government agencies as far as evacuation orders."

Vargas says, "I spoke to people in Houston and tried to build up enough context and data to come away with conclusions about what was traumatic for people or not in the aftermath."

While Barrios focused his research on social and flooding issues, Vargas focused hers on trauma and the need for mental health support.

Vargas explains, "People still, when it rains, have physical manifestations of stress which I believe constitutes PTSD. It is definitely apparent that mental health support is necessary but not present in this particular case."

With so many Americans living in coastal areas, Barrios hopes his research helps leaders decide how we are going to govern and live on flood plains.

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