Natural Disasters: Hurricanes Impact Underserved Communities Adversely

Updated: Jan 31

Natural disasters generally impact communities; however, it is becoming more evident that underserved communities are affected by natural disasters such as hurricanes at a more negative rate. For instance, Hurricane Katrina of 2004 is an example of the disadvantages underserved communities have during hurricanes compared to a served community.

Photo One: Post flooding from a hurricane event.

An underserved community is defined as both of the following descriptions:

Underserved Community (definition one): A community of lower socioeconomic status, such as environmentally, socially, professionally, and financially. But it can also include communities of higher socioeconomic status but reside in underserved areas; an example would be rural locations.

Underserved Community (definition two): A community that lacks one or all of the following: resources, opportunities, and sources, including finances (money, credit, grants), social opportunities (culture acceptance, health equity, social privileges), environmental equity (environmentally safe and efficient environments), professional development (jobs, careers, and professional enhancement opportunities), and overall lower quality of privileges.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines an underserved community as a population that has been historically and more than likely still is systematically excluded from the policymaking process, where the community’s religion, race, language, or socioeconomic status may play a role in this exclusion (NOAA Communicators 2020).

Hurricane disasters can have detrimental and fatal impacts on humans who experience the event. However, hurricanes tend to have heightened impacts on underserved communities. Underserved communities, in general, are impacted by factors such as low income, lack of resources, lack of public access, and lack of sources. Therefore, the occurrence of a hurricane can intensify those factors. For instance, low-income individuals tend to reside in areas prone to more significant effects from hurricanes based on their environment. Having a lower income renders individuals to lacking the finances to prepare and recover from hurricane events properly. For example, suppose an individual lacks funds to purchase basic hurricane necessities such as water, nonperishable foods, and flashlights due to using their limited funds on typical daily needs. In that case, it will make the enduring of a hurricane more strenuous than a person who has a higher income and can afford both types of necessities.

Hurricanes tend to have heightened impacts on underserved communities. Underserved communities, in general are impacted by factors such as low income, lack of resources, lack of public access, and lack of sources.

Photo Two: An uprooted tree as a result of a hurricane disaster.

A community that is served and has a higher income would be at an advantage compared to underserved low-income communities concerning the preparation and recovery from hurricanes. For instance, a loss of residence for an underserved low-income community due to a hurricane would have detrimental long-term impacts, such as displacement of home with lack of resources and access to another residence location. During the 2004 Hurricane Katrina disaster, those from underserved communities had limited to no places to evacuate, which led to many remaining in the area being deemed a location for evacuation. Additionally, many individuals remained homeless after the hurricane and were relocated with assistance to other states.

Figure Two: A Diagram of how hurricanes impact human health

Impacts encountered by underserved communities need to be assessed with solutions to decrease the effects of hurricanes. The first step to creating those solutions is to examine the individuals in underserved communities to evaluate their knowledge, beliefs, and needs by using community assessment surveys to gain insight into how to address these communities for natural disaster impacts. An additional solution is to create a system of proactive evacuation for underserved communities, especially those who depend on public transit as a means of main transportation. Now is the time to focus more on those in communities needing enhanced assistance before, during, and after natural disasters.


Coastal Communicators: November 2020 - (2020). Retrieved from

Waddell, S. L., Jayaweera, D. T., Mirsaeidi, M., Beier, J. C., & Kumar, N. (2021). Perspectives on the Health Effects of Hurricanes: A Review and Challenges. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(5), 2756.

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