Resilience in Planning: A Review of Comprehensive Plans in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina

Ann Carpenter, PhD
Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Community and Economic Development Department
Discussion Paper 2015-1
January 2015

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This paper analyzes and compares the decisions communities made in rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to determine to what extent post-Katrina comprehensive plans promote resilience based on built environment factors that have been shown to improve social networking, physical safety, and community building. Levels of recovery are also examined, measured by the current numbers of occupied housing units in each community compared with pre-Katrina numbers.

After Katrina, multiple planning documents were produced by a variety of organizations. Mississippi state statute requires each municipality to have a long-range comprehensive plan adopted by the local governing body. Plans establish goals over a 20- to 25-year period of development and are required to address residential, commercial, and industrial development; parks, open space, and recreation; street and road improvements; and public schools and community facilities. To capture the most significant interests and values, the overarching goals and vision statements of post-Katrina plans were compared and analyzed.

Plans from four Mississippi communities affected by Hurricane Katrina—Biloxi, Ocean Springs, Pascagoula, and Waveland—indicate that communities in the region understand many of the present strengths and weaknesses with respect to disaster resilience and have outlined a strategy to mitigate damage, reduce vulnerability, and create support networks to speed up recovery for a future disaster on the scale of Katrina. Like any plan, how and to what extent these ideals are implemented is a concern. During interviews in these communities, recurring concerns were public participation and, at the least, attention to the needs of residents in the planning process.

Key words: Disaster resilience, Hurricane Katrina, Mississippi municipal comprehensive plans, Social networks, Built environment


The author would like to thank Michael Elliott, John Peponis, Daniel Immergluck, Harley Etienne, and Steve French for their advisement. The views expressed here are the author's and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta or the Federal Reserve System. Any remaining errors are the author's responsibility.

Comments to the author are welcome at ann.carpenter@atl.frb.org.