‘It’s Not Too Late': Restoring the Gulf Coast to minimize storm impacts

ABC News Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee looks at how human activity has left the Gulf Coast vulnerable to flooding and at efforts to rebuild and restore the coast.
6:32 | 09/18/20

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Transcript for ‘It’s Not Too Late': Restoring the Gulf Coast to minimize storm impacts
Texas the Gulf Coast moves to recovery mode after yet another storm in this week's it's not too late. RJC looks at how human activity has left these coastal areas vulnerable to storm surges and devastating flooding. But with the help of the few local group's efforts to rebuild and restore are under way. A. High mountains and dizzy and it's not too late. Right behind me that as a people at a church here in Mobile, Alabama after hurricane Sally blew through that steeple hanging precariously we had 82 miles per hour. On the back side of what has been beaten third hurricane to make landfall. Here along the Gulf Coast the fourth hurricanes make landfall. In the United States than here we are well above average and we are now at record setting this early in the season but this number of hurricanes. We also had mobile bay pushed back out into the ocean it's called anti surge the images you're seeing there. Yeah me walking content that they should be filled with water. And it didn't built back in. But on the other side Pensacola was overtaken by water. Sam was covering the roads in dauphin island mall thanks to storm surge and feet of rain and now. When a hurricane hits the Gulf Coast it can be even more damaging. In the way of search and that's because of how the continental shelf flex and really how the beaches work under the water. For example. On the east 'cause they drop off the continental shelf there is steeper when a bubble of storm surge approaches the East Coast something can get deflected or absorbed it can act like a wall. The Gulf Coast on the other hand has a very gradual decline and that can act as almost a ran. To bring the surge right up and inland a whole lot farther. There's a natural obstacles like barrier islands dunes and even oyster beds those are like little speed bumps that absorb some of the surge in the waves. But here's the thing. We've taken away some of those speed bumps and down the surge comes right at us. Bullying this year. We want to nearly drowned routes and there aren't any rocks on the Gulf Coast if you've not been down here we don't have a lot of heads. So at half. And was winning and we dredged up a lot of these history slowly did that these race that were eight or 1015. Feet tall and some pieces. Gone and you want stack buffer. And now decades after those centuries old decisions somebody. Have to pay for it. We wanted to develop oil and gas and those Eric. And we thought that all made sense they didn't. Back and we argued with ourselves we'll have so much resources as a result of this that we can pay to fix things. And how we're paying important. Hand and 1897. In National Geographic. There is an actual debate an article about science about levying the river. And which the scientists state very clearly. If we do this generation's three or four chance we'll have to pay for Dallas it's our turn now he had here we are gladly. Louisiana's coast alone lost more than 18100 square miles from 1932 to 2010 and that is greater than the size of Rhode island's. According to a state report from 2004 to 2008 alone 300 square miles of marsh lands will offset hurricanes Katrina and Rita who stopped and Ike. A pro public a report found that Louisiana loses about football field of land and free now learn. So erosion that we see here is natural erosion that has been exacerbated because we put shipping channels and brain we have navigation channel so that we can access these areas the problem that we had this seal level is rising incrementally. And our habitats he went back and that's what we're working on should we deem resent. Not a little bit if we can eat those marshes as an additional material. You know the money these channels we're gonna help our system become help your action. As Atlanta roads we are more vulnerable to flooding. Storm surge and of course sea level rise and now the we've added sea level rise to that. It becomes even more problematic. That also meant that we lost that land which was our storm could. Shipments of the buffers that we could live far and again we had that land between us and deceive and storms as we lose that we've become more vulnerable. To the storms that receive. Steve Cochran words that the Environmental Defense Fund and Mississippi delta coalition they're trying to find natural ways to rebuild the coast and limit the impact of the storm surge. Because the storm surge is going to happen to sea levels are going to rise. And we have to find a way to protect ourselves now. Is there and say that we rebuild the Mississippi hello we found that even that. I don't think so and I don't. You know we we actually use the word restore and we're trying to figure that the right word because that leaves the impression that we're gonna put it all back away a lot yeah. We're definitely not going to do that here in the Mississippi got. We can have a sustainable delta they will be smaller in the one we have now and certainly smaller than one it was here 300 years. Off the coast of Alabama there's a project called the lightning point where the Nature Conservancy folks and the folks that live there are rebuilding the area around fishing port. We now buffer that full court against storm surge and that's the first line of defense and not only doesn't have just a series of great players out there it's candidate ecosystem instead marsh it's not the only consider inn near the ridges protecting the tidal creeks absorbing. Now water report comes Denton and it didn't think about easings does me no one else is you know. Moguls out there in the water they're breaking that wave energy down so even. They're underwater saying you know when those waves travel across the bottom it's been an energy and so what ever is reaching shore is so much blasts of the year. One study found that rebuilding natural. Barriers like the oysters that can save fifteen million dollars in storm surge of our flood damage. And the more we can build that land back at used to be they of the more than we could re grow the Cyprus force that used to be there for more protection began from those storms. These projects are not perfect and they have to act together because alone it just won't be enough we have dinner because we want to protect this beautiful land. Content dizzy and I promise it's not too late. Like to hear that promise and we thank junior Z for that.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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