ATLANTA — The two massive storms brought death and suffering and damage that will be measured in the billions of dollars. They left millions of residents cowering in their homes to ride out pounding rains, and left evacuees — hundreds of thousands of them — scattered across Texas and the Southeast.
At the same time, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may have revealed a largely unnoticed truth often buried under the news of unfolding tragedy: The United States appears to be improving in the way it responds to hurricanes, at a time when climate scientists say the threats from such storms, fueled by warming oceans, are growing only more dire. For all the chaos, the death toll from Harvey and Irma remained surprisingly contained: about 85 thus far in Florida and Texas.
“There’s no doubt that we’re doing better,” said Brian Wolshon, a civil engineer professor and evacuation expert at Louisiana State University. “The stuff we’re doing is not rocket science, but it’s having the political will, and the need, to do it.”