The city of Biloxi is centrally located on the Mississippi coast, abutting Gulfport, approximately halfway between the cities of Mobile, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisana. It is home to around 46,000 residents and is among the top five most populous cities in the state. With 24 miles of coastline, Biloxi has a rich array of natural resources, which have spurred traditional and modern-day industries centered on tourism and fisheries.
Biloxi is still rebuilding from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Since the storm, the city has focused on preventing future flooding and stormwater damage by hardening both citymanaged and privately owned infrastructure. Their main community resilience goal is to improve communication and education on natural hazards among a diverse range of key stakeholders.
The city created Hazard Mitigation and Climate Change Adaptation Committees to recommend modifications to existing plans and policies aimed at minimizing future damages from disasters. They will broaden their analysis to include climate impacts, such as wildfires and increased heat, and are focusing on ways to disseminate and collaborate around these new insights with a variety of audiences, including policy makers and elected officials; Biloxi residents; city staff and public sector partners from neighboring jurisdictions; community businesses and private sector stakeholders; and nongovernmental partners that can help advance implementation.
- The city’s Hazard Mitigation Plan has been finalized and adopted by the City Council, and approved by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and MEMA (Mississippi Emergency Management Agency). They have been recognized by FEMA for considering the persistent challenge of sea level rise as part of their all-hazards analysis.
- The city successfully amended a local zoning code to require one foot of freeboard above sea level for all new construction. This resulted in a reduction of 12-15% in the overall cost of flood insurance for city residents. Biloxi is one of only a handful of communities in the Gulf Coast that has achieved a Class 5 designation in FEMA’s Community Rating System program.
- Sergeant Milton Houseman was invited to present on Biloxi’s Climate Change Adaptation Committee efforts as part of an EPA Symposium on Adaptation within their State and Local Climate and Energy Program.
- Biloxi adopted and began enforcing a comprehensive stormwater ordinance to reduce incidences of local flooding.
- Biloxi is effectively communicating flood and natural disaster preparedness through a 16-page flier mailed annually to all city residents. This pamphlet features familiar preparation guidance alongside new materials regarding expected local climate impacts.
- The city is pursuing certification under NOAA’s StormReady Communities program, building on their existing efforts as part of the Community Rating System program.
- City staff have been invited to participate in the Harrison County, hazard mitigation planning process where they share data about sea level rise impacts to coastal Mississippi.
- Local area municipalities, including Waveland and Dewberry, have recently consulted Biloxi municipal staff to garner their expertise on incorporating expected localized climate impacts into planning processes and policy decisions, and disseminating lessons learned to neighboring jurisdictions.
- There is an ongoing need to educate the public and key stakeholders on expected climate-related impacts to build support for incorporating climate into planning processes.
- The city struggles with engaging relevant sector groups on the need to protect residents and assets from natural hazards (i.e., convincing landscapers of importance of keeping grass clippings out of storm drains).
- The city is working on alignment and coordination between the many actors that work on disaster preparedness, response, recovery and resilience efforts.