Disaster diaspora and the consequences of economic displacement and climate disruption, including Hurricanes Matthew (October 8, 2016) and Florence (September 14, 2018) in Robeson County, North Carolina


This paper presents a case study of Robeson County’s challenges in addressing the double-barrel disasters of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 (Category 5) and Hurricane Florence in 2018 (Category 4) in conjunction with the economic disaster resulting from the loss of over 10,000 jobs in the county following the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It is well known that climate disasters, including major hurricanes, droughts, and forest fires, worsen existing economic and social conditions. The significant challenges to recovery created by these combined disasters are salient. Both the patterns of the global economy and public and private disaster systems create a “disaster diaspora” within low-income impacted communities and poor rural communities impacted by major economic and climate change. Both economic and climate disruption have led to massive displacement within impacted communities leading to economic and social instability. Robeson County and all of Eastern North Carolina provide a case study for “disaster diaspora”, including its systemic patterns, causes, and indicators as well as potential solutions. This paper identifies, recognizes, and details this challenge, asserting that both existing patterns of economic and social disparity must be addressed along with and at the same time, as climate disaster recovery. The disproportionate and ongoing impact of NAFTA on Robeson County, Eastern NC, and all of rural America has not been effectively mitigated or significantly redressed. This paper offers a theoretical connection between climate disaster and economic dislocation and the necessary challenge of addressing and reconstructing both at the same time.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    A dissociative disorder is characterized as a disconnection and/or lack of continuity between thoughts, memories, and surroundings. Disaster victims escape reality in ways that are involuntary and unhealthy and cause problems in everyday life.


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Correspondence to Stephen M. Marson.

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Marson, S.M., Legerton, M. Disaster diaspora and the consequences of economic displacement and climate disruption, including Hurricanes Matthew (October 8, 2016) and Florence (September 14, 2018) in Robeson County, North Carolina. Nat Hazards (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-021-04529-8

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  • Hurricane Matthew
  • Hurricane Florence
  • Climate disaster
  • Case study
  • Disaster recovery
  • Rural regeneration