Recovering from Weather-Related Devastation

What measures can be taken to recover from and prepare for weather-related devastation?


Prepared By: Stephanie Zamora

Request Summary: Our City has faced tree devastation following a storm. The City requests information on models or plans used by other cities that have recovered from weather-related devastation (tornadoes, wildfires, hurricanes, etc.).  

Executive Summary & Analysis (Key Points) 

Preventative measures and disaster preparation are the best approaches to take in anticipation of major weather events. Often, cities are in a reactionary role after a disaster—governments deploy clean-up efforts and retrospectively provided resources to affected communities as well as for the physical damages to cities. Cities that take pride in their urban forestries such as St. Paul and New York have invested resources into preventative tactics and in cases where damages from disasters are not anticipated, they have implemented programs that ask for resident cooperation.  

Research Findings 

McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm, published “Improving disaster recovery: Lessons learned in the United States” in 2015 detailing nine critical actions that “[lays] groundwork for successful long-term recovery.”   

The City of St. Paul experienced a different form of tree devastation not tied to a weather event but equally as destructive, resource expensive, and devastating to the pride the city takes in its urban forestry. Dutch Elm diseases plagued the Twin Cities and “infected or killed hundreds of thousands of elms during its peak years in southern Minnesota, 1976 to 1982.” The city reflects on lessons learned from this event and even as recently as 2015 continues to make improvements to their approach.  

The three main takeaways from the lessons learned by the Twin Cities: 

  • “Dutch elm did lead cities to plant a somewhat more diverse urban forest to minimize the risk of contagion.” 
  • “’Following the devastating loss of American elms due to Dutch elm disease in the 1970s, species diversity was achieved by planting one tree type on each block of a street. Following the discovery of emerald ash borer in 2010, however, diversification was redefined to include two or more tree species on each block of a street.’” 
  • “establishing independent municipal boards with the knowledge and financial resources to respond quickly to events.” 

Extra resources by St. Paul:  

New York takes great pride in its urban landscape and asks for cooperation from its residents to prepare for storms and also report damaged and fallen trees with a quick link to Forestry Service Request or by calling 311.  

More NYC resources: 


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