- April 13, 2016 - US States Not Well Prepared For Future Climate Change Threats, Study Finds, The Climate Group
- April 8, 2016 - Yale Alums Help Make Connecticut a Model for Innovative Green Policymaking, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies
April 16, 2016 -
Greenland ice sheet is melting freakishly early, CT Post
April 7, 2016 -
Connecticut colleges considering climate change and resilience plans, New Haven Register
April, 7, 2016 -
Looking Back: The unnatural disaster, the Shoreline Flood of 1936, Shoreline Times
April 4, 2016 -
New Study: "Staggering" Loss of Wetlands In Ct and LI, NPR - WSHU
- April 18, 2016 - Torrential Rain and Flash Flooding Inundate Houston Area, Climate Central
- April 14, 2016 - Sinking Atlantic Coastline Meets Rapidly Rising Seas, Climate Central
- April 13, 2016 - Adapting To A More Extreme Climate, Coastal Cities Get Creative, NPR
- April 11, 2016 - Drowning History: Sea Level Rise Threatens US Historic Sites, ABC News
- April 8, 2016 - Melting of Arctic Sea Ice Already Setting Records in 2016, EcoWatch
- May 12-13, 2016 - HURRIPLAN two-day course in New London, Connecticut. Free course. 12 CECs for CFMs. Register at NDPC website. Sponsored by CAFM and the National Disaster Preparedness Center.
- May 24 or 25, 2016 - Social Media for Natural Disaster Response and Recovery course being offered in East Haddam, CT by the National Disaster and Preparedness Training Center. Two training dates available; May 24 or May 25.
CIRCA in the News
April 13, 2016 - US States Not Well Prepared For Future Climate Change Threats, Study Finds, The Climate Group
NEW YORK: US states, with just a few exceptions, are not well prepared for the future threats posed by climate disruption, new analysis shows.
The States at Risk: America's Preparedness Report Card, authored by Climate Central and ICFI, has gathered and analyzed five major threats posed by climate change in the US: extreme heat, summer drought, wildfires, inland and coastal flooding.
Science has long warned of increasing extreme weather events directly linked to climate change - which affects in particular the most vulnerable populations, such as children, elderly and poor people.
But the States at Risk report indicates that only a handful of US states are effectively prepared for such threats, with The Climate Group States & Regions members California, New York and Connecticut leading the chart.
"The increase of extreme weather due to climate change poses a serious threat for the most vulnerable populations," says Libby Ferguson, States & Regions Director, The Climate Group. "State and regional governments have the moral and legal duty to protect their citizens, acting fast to mitigate the worst effects of climate disruption. and especially to prevent future threats for their population.
"The States at Risk report indicates that many members of our States & Regions Alliance are already taking bold steps to tackle climate change and protect their citizens, scoring on top of the leader board.
"This is also the result of the intense collaboration that is at the core of our Alliance, where states and regions share and compare their innovative policies: climate change is a global issue, and as such it needs a global, coordinated response."
Extreme heat is "the most deadly of all climate impacts," the report states, having killed more than 1,200 Americans in the last 10 years. California is particularly exposed to this specific threat, but at the same time is the state that is the best prepared to tackle it, both today and in the future.
This result is even more impressive considering that the state has the biggest population exposed to heat waves, with about one million individuals over 65 and under five years old that are below the poverty line.
Texas is the most exposed to heat waves, but scores at the bottom of the leader board because it "has done almost nothing to prepare for its growing heat threat," says the report.
From a general point of view, the report finds that half of the lower 48 US states (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) will experience at least a four-fold increase in the heat waves threat, and all 48 but Oregon will experience a three-fold increase. By 2050, 11 states are expected to have 50 or more heat waves per year, a number that in Florida reaches 80 days.
To date, Alaska is taking exceptional measure to mitigate heat waves - which are dangerously deteriorating the permafrost - but as many as 26 states have "taken limited or no action to even understand their future extreme heat risks", the report finds.
DROUGHT AND WILDFIRES
Last year's temperature record has worsened the droughts that are affecting many US states, in particular California. Such a threat is damaging farmers, citizens and even hydropower plants - with Texas, Montana and Washington to be the most affected by droughts by 2050.
Wildfires have hit the headlines in the last few years, having doubled since the 1970s. Once again, Texas is the state most at risk, with 18 million people potentially affected by the issue. California follows with 11 million people, but it has taken the strongest actions to prevent future issues.
Generally, wildfires are among the threat states are currently most prepared to tackle, but at the same time it is the issue where they are doing the least for the future.
INLAND AND COASTAL FLOODING
Inland flooding is a "considerable threat" for at least 32 states, the report indicates. It is particularly felt in California (potentially affecting 1.3 million people), Arkansas, and Florida (1.5 million people). More than half of US states have taken no action to prevent future flooding, with Arkansas particularly exposed due to its level of risk.
Among the states that are taking the most effective measures, the States & Regions Alliance member Connecticut is efficiently assessing its vulnerability and implementing findings into its policies.
"Mitigating climate change and adapting to its effects are top priorities for the state of Connecticut," says Keri Enright-Kato, Director, Office of Climate Change, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. "Through the work of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and key partners - the Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation and the Governor's Council on Climate Change - the state's efforts concentrate on systematically reducing emissions from every sector of the economy while simultaneously preparing our communities and infrastructure for the impacts of rising seas and severe storms."
One of the most visible effects of climate change is sea level rise, which threatens many coastal cities and states. In the US, the combination of such sea rise coupled with even small hurricanes causes increasingly devastating flooding.
Louisiana and Florida are the states most affected by such a threat: in the former, one out of five citizens are potentially affected by it, while in Florida coastal floods can have an impact of 3.5 million people - and 4.6 million by 2050.
Coastal flooding is the threat that states are currently facing in the most effective way, and generally they are also quite well prepared for the future.
The report is a wake-up call for the vast majority of US states that are not taking decisive actions to avoid the current and future threats of climate change.
As The Climate Group's States & Regions Alliance shows, US states with policies that include mitigation measures today and risk assessment for the future are the ones that are best protecting their citizens - future-proofing both their safety and wellbeing.
Many of the Connecticut's recent achievements in environmental policy were led by faculty, alumni and students from F&ES. During a recent panel, some of these leaders discussed why the state has become a "laboratory" for sustainable development and green policy.
Political gridlock in Washington, D.C. has frustrated many critical federal environmental policy initiatives in recent years. But in Connecticut, leaders boast that a spirit of innovation and bipartisan cooperation has made the state a model for how to get things done on critical energy- and sustainability-related issues.
Many of the recent achievements - from the creation of the acclaimed Connecticut Green Bank and a new institute for climate resilience to the merging of the state's environmental and energy agencies - have been led by faculty, alumni, even students, from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies (F&ES).
During a panel discussion at F&ES this week, several of those leaders discussed the factors that have made Connecticut a successful "laboratory" for sustainable development and environmental policy - and opportunities to make government work better for local communities and the environment.
"A lot of the innovation, a lot of the thinking, is happening now at the state level," said Connecticut State Sen. Ted Kennedy, Jr. (D-Branford) '91 M.E.Sc. "And Connecticut can really lead the way in a lot of the innovation that we're seeing."
Other panelists included State Rep. James Albis '16 M.E.M. (D-East Haven), co-chair of the state's Environment Committee; Bryan Garcia '00 M.E.M., President and CEO of the Connecticut Green Bank; Robert Klee '99 M.E.Sc., '04 J.D., '05 Ph.D., Commissioner of the state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP); and Catherine Smith '83 M.P.P.M., Commissioner of the state's Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).
The discussion was moderated by F&ES Prof. Dan Esty '86 J.D., the Hillhouse Professor of Environmental Law and Policy and former DEEP commissioner. Joe MacDougald '05 M.E.M., a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, offered introductory remarks.
One key ingredient in many of the state's recent environmental successes, panelists said, was inclusion of multiple parties and, particularly in the current fiscal climate, the ability to limit the amount of public spending.
Locating outside funds is a foundational principle of the Connecticut Green Bank, which uses private capital and other funds to provide low-interest loans to projects exploring cleaner and cheaper energy technologies. And after just five years, Garcia said, the project has exceeded expectations.
"We have not only accelerated and attracted more private investment in Connecticut's clean energy economy, [but] we're looking at this fiscal year [achieving] a 10-to-1, if not 15-to-1, leverage ratio; for every dollar that comes in we get $10 to $15 of someone else's money."
The Green Bank, he said, recently completed a deal in which investor Hannon Armstrong will provide $100 million that Connecticut can use to support clean energy projects statewide. "That's an example of how the green bank movement, how smart government, can use limited public dollars to scale up clean energy deployment," Garcia said.
And, he predicted, it's a model that can ultimately be used to address other environmental challenges. "As a staff we had a conversation about what's the future of this kind of movement," he said. "We're really thinking it's all about sustainability: How do we treat waste? How do we deal with water? How do we deal with land use? This model can be applied to that."
Albis, a second-term state representative who will earn a master's degree from F&ES this spring, first sought a lead role on environmental issues after Hurricane Irene devastated his district in 2011.
In the aftermath of the storm, he led a shoreline preservation task force that initiated the momentum for a new climate resilience framework. The new Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation, which Albis helped create through legislation, now assists municipalities plan for the impacts of climate change, including sea level rise. "It doesn't cost the state any extra money but utilizes our money in a more efficient manner and could save money down the road," he said.
The urgency to manage costs has led DEEP to consistently evaluate how it can operate more efficiently and transform its processes, said Klee, who two years ago succeeded Esty as the agency commissioner. Within the department, he said, staff members are given the space to reimagine how things can be done more efficiently, and to share their lessons with other state departments, so that they can focus on their primary job.
Sustainability in New Haven
Before the panel discussion, New Haven Mayor Toni Harp described some of the initiatives adopted by the city to be a better environmental steward, from producing its own renewable energy to the addition of bioswales to improve water management.
And she described the importance of key partnerships to achieve these initiatives, including with the F&ES-led Hixon Center for Urban Ecology and the Urban Resources Initiative, which creates green jobs for city residents while also maintaining public parks, planting trees and installing green infrastructure.
"We already share a limited space," she added. "We might as well learn to share resources, transportation options, and most importantly share responsibility for increased sustainability. We're certainly working toward that end in my Administration, and I know you're working toward that end here at Yale."
"We have passionate, wonderful people who come to our agency to be active protectors of the environment and do innovative energy policy," he said, "not to push paper."
When the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development examined business sectors where the state could be a national leader, Smith said, one area that stood out is green technology. "This is a place we think we can be strong and we can grow faster than the average state, or even faster than the average country," she said.
And over the past few years the agency, along with Connecticut Innovations, the state's venture capital arm, have offered support to help the sector get there. In addition to investing in 13 green tech companies since 2011, the state offers numerous programs that help new and established companies thrive, including mentoring help and assistance finding talent or partners, she said.
Kennedy, a survivor of bone cancer, says the health impacts of contamination inform the way he thinks about environmental issues. And as co-chair of the state Environment Committee he has worked, with Albis, on a series of initiatives to address such threats, including a new law banning tiny plastic "microbeads" in cosmetics and efforts to reduce toxic substances at schools and playgrounds, and to protect the state's honeybees and other pollinators.
Another area where policymakers can better protect public health, and the environment, Kennedy said, is by requiring producers and shippers to be responsible for some of the products that have become commonplace - and costly to dispose of - from mattresses to shipping materials.
"Making producers responsible for the lifecycle of those products is something that I think is a creative way to address this problem and not use additional resources," he said.
Klee, whose research at F&ES was focused on the principles of industrial ecology, said a more thoughtful management of these materials could also create new economic opportunities.
"There is opportunity in waste," he said. "There are new businesses that will come into [the] market and say, 'Hey, I can take that clean stream of scrap tire, of mattress material, of glass or packaging, and turn it back into something and grow jobs right here.'"
Local & State News Clips
April 16, 2016 - Greenland ice sheet is melting freakishly early, CT Post
WASHINGTON (AP) - Greenland's massive ice sheet this week started melting freakishly early thanks to a weather system that brought unseasonably warm temperatures and rain, scientists say.
While this record early melt is mostly from natural weather on top of overall global warming, scientists say they are concerned about what it means when the melt season kicks in this summer. This however could be temporary.
On Monday and Tuesday, about 12 percent of the ice sheet surface area - 656,000 square miles or 1.7 million square kilometers - showed signs of melting ice, according to Peter Langen, a climate scientist at the Danish Meteorological Institute. It smashed record for early melting by more than three weeks.
That's normal for late May not mid-April, Langen said.
Normally, no ice should be melting in Greenland at this time of year. Before now, the earliest Greenland had more than 10 percent surface area melting was on May 5, back in 1990. Even in 2012, when 97 percent of Greenland experienced melt, it didn't have such an early and extensive melt.
Langen said the amount of melt now is not the issue, timing is: "It's nothing for July, it's huge for April."
"It's disturbing," Langen said. "Something like this wipes out all kinds of records, you can't help but go this could be a sign of things we're going to see more often in the future."
What's causing this weeks' unusual melt is a weather system that is bringing warm temperatures to Greenland and funneling lots of warmer-than-normal rain up from the south, Langen said. The rain and the above freezing temperatures help melt the ice.
Greenland's capital, Nuuk, reached 62 degrees (16.6 degrees Celsius) on Monday, smashing the April record high temperature by 6.5 degrees. Inland at Kangerlussuaq, it was 64 degrees (17.8 degrees Celsius), warmer than St. Louis and San Francisco.
Langen and other scientists said this is part of a natural weather system, but man-made climate change has worsened this. Tom Mote of the University of Georgia said had this natural event happened 20 or 30 years ago it wouldn't have been as bad as it is now because the air is warmer overall and carries more rain that melts the ice faster.
"Things are getting more extreme and they're getting more common," said NASA ice scientist Walt Meier. "We're seeing that with Greenland and this is an indication of that."
"This kind of freakish warm spell is another piece in the puzzle," Meier said. "One freakish thing every once in a while you might expect. But we're getting these things more often and that's an indication of climate change."
Langen said the measurements are based on scores of observations from monitors on the ice fed into a computer simulation. NASA normally measures melt with a satellite, but there are problems with the instruments, Meier said. Still, Mote said the satellite, if correct, showed on Monday conditions similar to what Denmark is reporting.
Greenland ice sheet melting is one of the more visible and key signs of man-made global warming from the burning of fossil fuels because it is causing seas to rise, putting coastal areas at risk, Meier said.
If the entire Greenland ice sheet melted, which would take centuries, it could add 20 feet or more to global sea level, Meier said. But within the next century, Greenland ice melt alone could raise sea level by a couple feet, he said.
"The concern is things are moving faster than we thought," Meier said.
HARTFORD >> Colleges and universities in Connecticut are not debating whether climate change is a problem facing the world today. Rather, the primary focus is how to adapt to the changing global climate and be more resilient as institutions.
"I like the addition of resiliency. ... That's an important part of the conversation," said Robert Klee, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
Klee served as a keynote speaker for the third annual Campus Sustainability Conference held Thursday at the University of Connecticut Law School. Representatives, students and faculty from universities and colleges across the state attended to share ideas and strategies to help combat climate change with programs on campus.
As the state moves toward its goal of reducing carbon emission levels measured in 2001 by 80 percent by 2050, Klee said colleges and universities are important players in developing and implementing mitigation strategies.
"You can't wake up in 2047 and decide to be serious about it," Klee said. "Higher education communities have been a great partner (of the state)."
Southern Connecticut State University, Eastern Connecticut State University, the University of Connecticut, Wesleyan University and Middlesex Community College all have taken pledges with Second Nature to implement programs that reduce carbon emissions on campus.
They are part of a list of 600 colleges and universities around the country that have taken this pledge with the Boston-based nonprofit that works with keeping institutions of higher education accountable for those carbon-reduction commitments. Representatives from the Yale Office of Sustainability also were present at the conference Thursday. Yale has its own set of climate action plans that do not include a pledge with Second Nature.
More than 90 schools also have taken a separate resilience pledge through Second Nature, said Ruby Woodside, who oversees New England institutions for the group. The resilience pledge charges administrations with creating a task force for their campuses that also works with the larger communities of which the schools are part to create more overarching plans to design climate action plans.
While no schools present Thursday officially had taken a resilience pledge with Second Nature, there was talk among school officials about considering those pledges in the future.
"To really have something like (a task force), we need the institutional capacity to support it," said Jennifer Kleindienst of Wesleyan.
Kleindienst said that while the school has not taken an official resilience pledge through Second Nature, there are programs in place to help achieve that effort. The school's microgrid, for example, is one of the only microgrids in the state, and is a clean way of ensuring the school can maintain power, especially during emergencies. The campus serves as an emergency shelter for the city of Middletown so having a reliable, green source of power is important, she said.
In addition, Kleindienst said, the school is taking steps to help get students involved in the reduction of carbon emissions and living more sustainably. "Eco-facilitators" on campus educate their peers about how to save energy in their dorm rooms or apartments and a recently formed "Food Council" is addressing sustainability through food and waste management on campus.
More than half of the carbon emissions on Wesleyan campus come from heating and cooling, Kleindienst said.
Other schools are tackling resilient measures to combat climate change, as well. Solar panels will be installed at Middlesex Community College by the end of summer and Eastern Connecticut State University representatives spoke about a focus on recycling on campus.
"Sustainability affects everyone on campus and outside of campus," said Joy Hanson of Middlesex Community College, noting the school is starting to focus on climate awareness around campus. There are suggestion boxes around campus and posters about how to live more sustainably.
Hanson is chairwoman of the school's President Climate Action Response Team.
To increase visibility, Hanson said the team meets in open, public spaces and invites students and faculty to join the conversation.
At Southern Connecticut State University, there are 10 student interns in the sustainability office. Some of the interns help to collect and analyze data to update the school's climate action plan.
"We need a young work force who's trained to help develop and implement (climate action) plans," to help ensure a sustainable future, said Suzie Huminski of Southern.
In addition, the Food Recovery Network interns have helped donate leftover food on campus to local soup kitchens in needy communities, Huminski said.
Conversations about campus sustainability will continue throughout the year, especially with the second annual Campus Sustainability Week happening in October.
"(Last year) was a year of monumental progress," said Laura Miller, of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Eastern Connecticut State University. "We are poised to make a collective impact on keeping carbon emissions in check."
Along with May flowers, big-time spring showers can bring mud, floods and swollen rivers where there are no banks too big to fail.
Such was the case in March 1936 when the melt from massive winter snows combined with repeated heavy downpours saturated the land, overflowed riverbanks, and overwhelmed valley towns. It was two weeks of torrents that in earlier times could have launched Noah and his ark.
It was the greatest disaster ever recorded along the Connecticut River and when the water subsided, there were 430,000 people homeless, more than 170 deaths, and over $500 million in damage stuck in its muck, equal to about $7 - $8 billion dollars today.
The March 27, 1936 Deep River New Era called it "the greatest rampage in the 300 years that the white man has inhabited this section of the country."
It began when the accumulation of hefty winter snow was followed by warm spring weather and on March 11 it began to rain. That first storm dropped five inches of rain and the drenching was repeated several times over the next two weeks
In some parts of New England, more than 20 inches of rain was recorded. This melting snow and heavy rain caused unusually high water levels and loosened ice in the rivers. The large floating chunks clogged the smooth flow of the water and rammed bridges with devastating results.
This inundation flowed from the 148 tributaries, including 38 major rivers along with numerous ponds and lakes, into the 400 mile long Connecticut River.
Bridges were washed out and some dams gave way, quickly releasing huge amounts of additional water. Factories and homes floated away. Roads and railroad tracks were destroyed. Residents were rescued by volunteers in rowboats and transported to temporary shelters where they received food and medical attention.
The water continued its relentless rise. Efforts to pump out buildings were useless The damage mounted and became staggering.
In Deep River, the water was just below the floor at the railroad platform. At some houses the water was above the first floor windows. Lumber yards saw their boards float down the river, the fortunate ones putting together salvage crews to save some of the building materials.
In Essex, a large Standard Oil Company gasoline tank on the waterfront showed signs of tipping over until workers decided to fill it with water to hold it in place. They arranged for the fire department to pump some 24,000 gallons of water into it and the small amount of gas rose to the top where it was later drained. The tank remained in place.
There were signs that the bridge in the center of Chester was in danger of collapsing and traffic was detoured inland, to more passable roads. Stores were without heat or light and the basements at the Chester Savings Bank, the post office and elsewhere were flooded with several feet of water.
There were foolish boys-will-be-boys incidents, too. On the weekend three Essex boys rowed across the Connecticut River to see what had happened on Nott's Island. They were caught in the currents and unable to make their way against it and luckily were forced onto the island.
They managed to reach an old farmhouse on the island and get to the upper floors where they found some sheets which they used to signal for help. Fortunately, they attracted the attention in Essex and a local worker and a man from the Chapman dredging company went across the river in a power boat and rescued the boys. It's not known what their mother said to them.
Many towns were underwater. Local police assisted by the National Guard worked around the clock evacuating people from their homes and from rooftops.
In Hartford, the Connecticut River rose a record 38 feet. Food and medical supplies were stored in Hartford High School, but had to be moved because of the constantly rising waters. The Coast Guard joined the National Guard in patrolling the streets and rescuing residents in rowboats.
One report noted that guests checking out at Hartford's Bond Hotel were rowed across the lobby to the front desk to pay their bill and then rowed to the railroad station. Switchboard operators who worked the telephone came to work by rowboat. With power out, surgeons performed operations with battery powered light.
Even before the flooding subsided, curious sightseers came to see and take photos of the river and the damage. In some cases they did not have to travel far as the destruction soon hit closer to home.
As the waters began to recede, public health officials were concerned over the possibility of typhoid and the spread of disease. This sent physicians to the shelters to vaccinate people.
Members of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), one of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs that provided jobs for unemployed and unmarried young men, arrived in Essex with equipment to clean and disinfect buildings and grounds.
The cleanup was an enormous task. When the water receded it left mud in some places two or three feet deep. Some buildings had floated away. Others were damaged or unsafe and had to be inspected and then repaired, rebuilt or demolished. Debris was everywhere. It was a decade or more for some towns to recover.
In the midst of approaching congressional and presidential elections, the disaster prompted Congress to pass the Flood Control Act of 1936 which empowered the Army Corps of Engineers to build levees, flood walls, channel improvements, and reservoirs. It meant that the federal government should take primary responsibility for dealing with the menace of huge floods.
A few weeks after the flood the Hartford Courant reported that "Hartford is slowly recovering from the most terrifying and spectacular experience in its history - a flood, the vivid impressions of which will live forever in the memories of those who saw and went through it."
Two years later, the catastrophic flood of 1936 was dwarfed by the 1938 hurricane with its 10-inch rainfall accompanied by high winds caused an estimated 680-800 people to lose their lives and approximately 60,000 to become homeless. Connecticut suffered two of its most devastating natural disasters in the period of two years and in the depth of the Great Depression.
A new study says one-third of all the tidal wetlands that surround Long Island Sound have disappeared since the 1880s. The Environmental Protection Agency calls the loss staggering.
Mark Tedesco, director of the EPA's Long Island Sound Office, says wetlands are important to cities and towns on the Sound.
"They help protect homes and properties and roads from flooding because they're able to absorb water. But they're also really important for the environment. They provide great habitat for birds and fish and other wildlife," Tedesco said.
The study was released last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other state and federal agencies. It says that since the 1880s, Connecticut has lost more than 5,000 acres of wetlands and New York has lost about 2,500 acres. Tedesco says most of the loss happened before 1972, when congress passed the Clean Water Act.
"Before the Clean Water Act, and wetland protection laws in Connecticut and New York, it was legal to take a wetland and fill it with soil and build on top of it. And now that's greatly restricted," Tedesco said.
Since the 1970s, Connecticut has regained some of its wetlands thanks to local, state and federal wetland restoration projects. But the North Shore of Long Island is still losing wetlands. Tedesco says that's probably because Long Island doesn't have as many rivers. And rivers provide wetlands with sediment, like silt and sand, that helps them withstand rising sea levels.
National News Clips
April 18, 2016 - Torrential Rain and Flash Flooding Inundate Houston Area, Climate Central
Phenomenal flooding has gripped the Houston area, thanks to rain falling at rates up to several inches an hour. Between midnight and 5:20 a.m. Central time, Houston Intercontinental Airport received 8.85 inches of rain, breaking its previous rainfall record for the date (8.16 inches in 1976) in just five hours.
Many sites have seen more than 10 inches of rain, with a few seeing a stunning 15 inches as of 9:00 a.m. Central time, according to the National Weather Service.
The onslaught of rain has sent creeks and bayous rising and spilling into neighborhoods and over roads. Cypress Creek rose 21 feet in only five hours, White Oak Bayou rose 28 feet in 10 hours. Water has started to overtop Interstate 10 at White Oak Bayou near downtown Houston, with cars floating on the Interstate.
Numerous roads are closed and 70 subdivisions in the metro area were flooded by 7 a.m. Central time. Harris County Judge Ed Emmett said that 1,000 homes had flooded as of 11 a.m. Emergency responders have conducted more than 100 water rescues in the City of Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a Monday morning briefing. Residents have been advised to avoid travel unless they are fleeing floodwaters.
Houston METRO has suspended all transit services including local bus, Park and Ride and light-rail. Many schools have closed, including the University of Houston.
The rain was the result of a slow moving front sitting over eastern Texas, combined with a deep flow of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. More rain is expected through Monday night and into Tuesday before the area begins drying out on Wednesday.
The magnitude of this flood event could be similar to Tropical Storm Allison, which inundated Houston and other parts of the Southeast in June 2001. At the time, Allison was the costliest tropical storm in U.S. history, causing $9 billion in damage. Two-thirds of Harris County received over 10 inches of rain from that storm with up to 20 inches falling in northeast Houston.
While no attribution of this event is immediately available, this deluge is in line with a trend of increased downpours due to climate change not just in Houston but across the U.S. Nationwide, the number of days with 3 inches or more of rain has increased since 1950. Houston alone has seen a 167 percent increase in heavy downpours since the 1950s, according to a Climate Central analysis.
The 5,000 North Carolinians who call Hyde County home live in a region several hundred miles long where coastal residents are coping with severe changes that few other Americans have yet to endure.
Geological changes along the East Coast are causing land to sink along the seaboard. That's exacerbating the flood-inducing effects of sea level rise, which has been occurring faster in the western Atlantic Ocean than elsewhere in recent years.
New research using GPS and prehistoric data has shown that nearly the entire coast is affected, from Massachusetts to Florida and parts of Maine.
The study, published this month in Geophysical Research Letters, outlines a hot spot from Delaware and Maryland into northern North Carolina where the effects of groundwater pumping are compounding the sinking effects of natural processes. Problems associated with sea level rise in that hot spot have been - in some places - three times as severe as elsewhere.
Coastal cities across the globe are looking for ways to protect themselves from sea level rise and extreme weather. In the U.S., there is no set funding stream to help - leaving each city to figure out solutions for itself.
New Orleans and Philadelphia are two cities that face very similar challenges of flooding from rising tides. But they've chosen to pay for the solutions in very different ways.
New Orleans: Post-Disaster Payments And Grants Pave Future
"One of the biggest challenges of the next several decades is going to be water - either too much of it or not enough," says Jeff Hebert, chief resilience officer in New Orleans.
In New Orleans, the problem is too much water. Hebert's job is to help the city prepare for disasters like hurricanes and rising sea levels.
"You see a lot of driveways that are buckling, the streets that are buckling, you see the foundations of these homes that are buckling," he says.
But it won't look like this for long. In January, New Orleans won a $141 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to build a "Resilience District."
It's an experiment with pervious surfaces and water-absorbing parks located in Gentilly, one of the worst-hit areas after Hurricane Katrina. It'll include water features in medians to reduce flooding, as well as lagoons and a pond.
Hebert points to a spot where he says a large sports field "will be allowed to inundate under water when it rains. You'll see almost a creek that will go through here."
The grant the city received is in addition to $2 billion in relief payments the city just received from FEMA for Katrina-related infrastructure damage.
Robin Keegan, who works with GCR, a consulting firm, helped the city apply for some of those grants. She says after Katrina, the city faced some hard choices.
"Every system that we had in place had to be looked at anew because everything was broken and we had to fix it," Keegan says.
She says the reason it's getting federal and private money to come up with new ways to deal with water, is because it's already been hit again and again.
"New Orleans is identified as a place that has gone through that thinking and is actually setting up the best practices and the models," Keegan says.
But of course, not every city has the cachet - or the same level of crisis - that New Orleans has.
Philadelphia: Billing Undesirable Practices To Spur Green Investment
In Philadelphia, those big checks from government and private entities aren't rolling in.
On the one hand, the city isn't as vulnerable as New Orleans. But some of its neighborhoods are expected to flood from rising tides along the Delaware River. To pay for upgrades, the city has to turn to its residents, who pay a stormwater fee each month. For most it's only a few bucks, but for others it can be a handful.
Gina Rucci operates Popi's, an Italian restaurant in South Philadelphia. Several years ago, she bought an adjacent property and turned it into a parking lot. Then she received a $330 bill.
Gina Rucci stands by a new rain garden built in the parking lot of her restaurant in South Philadelphia. The improvements have cut her water runoff bill by 60 percent.
"And I wasn't thinking about a water bill because there was no water on the lot," Rucci says.
It was a bill from the city for the water run-off from her parking lot. To reduce that bill, she recently found out about a program where the city encourages "green infrastructure" - things like rain gardens, tree trenches and green roofs.
"Once your own ground here becomes permeable, that water's not going that way; it's going to just sink," Rucci says. "And that's what you need it to do."
Today, she has cut her water runoff bill by 60 percent.
So far Philadelphia has built hundreds of green infrastructure projects in streets, parks and parking lots.
Chris Crockett, an engineer with Philadelphia's water department, is in charge of planning for climate change.
"Instead of doing these greener practices, we could just go and dig a hole to China and build a tunnel, but that has a huge carbon footprint," Crockett says.
And green infrastructure is cheaper - especially compared to more traditional engineering approaches like building a large concrete tunnel to hold the extra water. That hole-and-tunnel approach would have cost the city's ratepayers $10 billion and taken decades to complete. The thousands of rain gardens, green roofs, and tree trenches will cost the city around $2 billion.
With scientists forecasting sea levels to rise by anywhere from several inches to several feet by 2100, historic structures and coastal heritage sites around the world are under threat. Some sites and artifacts could become submerged.
Scientists, historic preservationists, architects and public officials are meeting this week in Newport, Rhode Island - one of the threatened areas - to discuss the problem, how to adapt to rising seas and preserve historic structures.
"Any coastal town that has significant historic properties is going to be facing the challenge of protecting those properties from increased water and storm activity," said Margot Nishimura, of the Newport Restoration Foundation, the nonprofit group hosting the conference.
Federal authorities have encouraged people to elevate structures in low-lying areas, but that poses challenges in dense neighborhoods of centuries-old homes built around central brick chimneys, Nishimura said, especially ones where preservationists are trying to keep the character intact.
Many of the most threatened sites in North America lie along the East Coast between Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, and southern Maine, where the rate of sea level rise is among the fastest in the world, said Adam Markham, of the Union of Concerned Scientists, a speaker at the conference.
"We're actually not going to be able to save everything," he said.
A look at some of the historic areas and cultural sites that are under threat from rising sea levels:
STATUE OF LIBERTY AND ELLIS ISLAND
Situated in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island are some of New York's most important tourist attractions.
In 2012, Superstorm Sandy submerged most of the low-elevation Liberty and Ellis islands. After the storm, the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France in 1886, was closed for eight months. Ellis Island, the entry point for about 12 million immigrants to the United States from 1892 to 1954, remained closed for nearly a year.
A report by the National Park Service looked at how several parks would be threatened by 1 meter, or around 3 feet, of sea level rise. It found $1.51 billion worth of assets at the Statue of Liberty National Monument were highly exposed to sea level rise.
Much of historic Boston is along the water and is at risk due to sea level rise, including Faneuil Hall, the market building known as the "Cradle of Liberty," and parts of the Freedom Trail, a walking trail that links historic sites around the city.
Boston has seen a growing number of flooding events in recent years, up from two annually in the 1970s to an average of 11 annually between 2009 and 2013, according to a 2014 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists. If sea levels rise by 5 inches, the group reported, the number of floods is projected to grow to 31 annually. If seas rise by 11 inches, the number of flooding events is projected to rise to 72 per year.
The Point neighborhood in the Rhode Island resort town has one of the highest concentrations of Colonial houses in the United States, and it sits 4 feet above mean sea level. Tidal flooding is already occurring in the neighborhood, and that is expected to increase as sea levels rise, Nishimura said. The smell of sea water already permeates the basement of some homes.
The decline of Arctic sea ice is already setting records in 2016, with the winter peak in March clocking in as the lowest since satellite records began, scientists say.
A new and fuller summary of this year's Arctic winter by the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) confirms the preliminary announcement last week that sea ice reached its annual maximum extent on March 24 this year.
The decline of Arctic sea ice is already setting records in 2016, with the winter peak in March clocking in as the lowest since satellite records began, scientists say.
Covering an area of 14.52m square kilometers, this year's peak winter extent is a shade smaller than the previous record low set in 2015. But the new NSIDC report adds a lot more detail about what it calls a "highly unusual" and "most interesting" Arctic winter.
With abnormally warm conditions right across the Arctic, some regions experienced temperatures 4-8C higher than average. While this meant slower ice growth in some places, in others it caused a dramatic thinning by 30cm in one week, according to early model results.
Becoming resilient to the impacts of climate change and extreme weather in Connecticut has a price. To date, in Connecticut most of the dollars invested in resilient infrastructure have come from federal grants provided in the form of assistance after a declared disaster, but grants alone will not cover the bill. The fact sheet released today entitled, Financing Resilience in Connecticut: Current Programs, National Models, and New Opportunities, reviews existing resilience financing programs in Connecticut as well as model programs that can be applied in the State.
The fact sheet accompanies a presentation at the Friday April 22 Earth Day 2016 symposium, Resilience and the Big Picture: Governing and Financing Innovations for Long Island Sound and Beyond, sponsored by the Connecticut Sea Grant, the National Sea Grant Law Center, and the UConn School of Law Center for Energy & Environmental Law. The symposium is free and open to the public. The presentation will review the programs listed below in more depth, while also taking a look at the challenges facing the implementation of these programs in the State.
Connecticut's Coast: Then and Now... is a new CLEAR story map that guides you through a comparison of scanned 1934 aerial photos of Connecticut's shoreline with current imagery. It briefly describes the process, the history of this one-of-a-kind dataset (the statewide 1934 aerials) and coastal processes. Next, areas of change including marshes, beaches and new land are described and highlighted with "swipes" that allow you to make side-by-side comparisons. Finally, visit ten locations with a time series of multiple dates starting in 1880 and view the coast through the unique perspective of Lidar elevation.
A number of resources are available for communities to enhance their resilience to disasters, such as resilience indices, scholarly articles, and mitigation and recovery grants. This report inventories a subset of those resources, in the form of tools available through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which together can be directly applied for purposes of preparing for, mitigating, preventing, responding to, recovering from, and improving overall community resilience to all-hazards, including both natural and man-made disasters.
These tools include online mapping systems, guidance documents and publications, and many others. Several of the tools were originally developed for recovering from chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear events but can be used for recovering from other events as well. This inventory is intended to provide researchers and practitioners with information about available resiliency tools that they may distribute and use to help communities protect their resources and become more resilient to all-hazards. It also addresses further research needs and opportunities to continue advancing the science and practice of community resilience.
Sponsored by Connecticut Sea Grant and the UConn Center for Energy and Environmental Law.
Friday, April 22, 2016
8:00 am to 5:00 pm
William F. Starr Hall
45 Elizabeth St.
Hartford, CT 06105-2290
Resilience and the Big Picture: Governing and Financing Innovations for Long Island Sound and Beyond symposium presentations and discussions aim to explore the policy and legal challenges of planning, implementing and financing resilient futures on both sides of the high tide line as well as the complexities of distributing and coordinating the governance of shared resources among multiple authorities, with a focus on marine spatial planning efforts.
The event is on Wednesday, April 27th at Two Roads Brewery in Stratford, CT and is the first of CAFM's new Twilight series that combines professional networking with a presentation on topics suggested by our members. April's topic is "Working with your Local Floodplain Manager" and attendees can learn more about how to work with your local floodplain manager, what it means to be in the floodplain, and also get a greater understanding of how the Flood Insurance Rate Maps were developed and how they can potentially be changed. The presentation has been tailored for the consulting community out there who often don't get the same training available to municipal representatives, but all are certainly welcome. If you are interested in this topic and haven't yet been to see this converted Engine Parts Assembly Plant that has been converted to a brewery - the space is a real treat and the topic is sure to generate fantastic discussion. Cost is $35 with cash bar. Please register via the attached flyer or on our website at ctfloods.org; just go to the events tab.
In conjunction with the National Disaster Preparedness Center, CAMF is bringing the HURRIPLAN two-day course back to CT on May 12th and 13th. Planners, this course is very well suited to you, your colleagues in the Building Department, and Emergency Management team members. Preparedness is a cross-departmental collaboration so please circulate this amongst other potential interested parties. This was last offered about 5 years ago and will be held at Fort Trumbull in New London, CT. For those who are Certified Floodplain Managers, this FREE course provides 12 CECs. Please register directly on the NDPC website.
May 24 or 25, 2016
- Social Media for Natural Disaster Response and Recovery course being offered in East Haddam, CT by the National Disaster and Preparedness Training Center. Two training dates available; Register for May 24 or Register for May 25.
This course focuses on the use of social media in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. Participants are provided with the knowledge and skills to integrate social media into their current communication plans. The course defines social media and its uses and identifies the tools, methods, and models to properly make use of social media. Social media, when used effectively, can help people communicate and collaborate about events as they unfold. Social media can provide rapid and real-time information about events that helps to provide greater situational awareness leading to better decision making. This course provides the information and hands-on experience necessary to help participants begin developing social media disaster plans and strategies.
May 24 or 25, 2016
8 am-5 pm
East Haddam, Connecticut
LOCATION AND DETAILS:
Fire Company 1
440 Town St
East Haddam, CT 06423
FOR REGISTRATION ASSISTANCE:
- Participants must bring a wi-fi enabled device(laptop Preferred).
- Participants must register and take the pre test online.
- Participants must create a Twitter and a Facebook account prior to attending the course.
- Participants must be able to post test messages on these accounts.
FY 2016 Grant Opportunity Announcement
Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) and Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM)
Application period: 3/15/2016 - 4/29/2016. Sub-applications must be received by the state via e-grants no later than 3pm on April 29, 2016. Paper or email applications cannot be accepted.
All Sub-Applicants applying for FMA must have a FEMA approved local hazard mitigation plan in place no later than April 29th to be eligible to apply for project funding.
To Apply: Eligible applicants must apply for funding through the Mitigation e-Grants system on the FEMA Grants Portal.
Applications for funding are reviewed on a nationally competitive basis and there are limited funds available for these programs. Applications whose main focus is in line with Federal priorities have the best chance of being funded.
Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM):
State and Local Governmental Agencies
Indian Tribal Governments
1. Multi -Jurisdictional Local Natural Hazard Mitigation Plans (NHMP's). Up to $300,000 can be awarded per multi NHMP.
2. Single-Jurisdictional Local Natural Hazard Mitigation Plans (NHMP's). Up to $150,000 can be awarded per single jurisdictional NHMP.
For more information about e-Grants, go to:
Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA):
Provides funds to eligible sub-applicants to reduce or eliminate risk of flood damage to buildings insured under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Federal priorities are to mitigate severe repetitive loss (SRL) and repetitive loss properties (RL).
Eligible Activities Include:
Property acquisition and Structure Demolition
Dry Flood-proofing (Non-residential and Historic residential structures only)
Minor Localized Flood Reduction Projects (that primarily benefit NFIP insured structures)
Further information on FMA and PDM can be found at
For FMA please contact Emily Pysh, State Hazard Mitigation Officer
For PDM please contact Gemma Fabris, Deputy State Hazard Mitigation Officer
The National Recreation and Park Association has just opened the call for applications for our Great Urban Parks Campaign model project grants. We seek to fund replicable green stormwater infrastructure projects in parks located in underserved communities. The overall goal is to demonstrate the social and environmental impacts of green infrastructure approaches to stormwater management, such as access to recreation and opportunities to connect with nature. Grants will be awarded up to $575,000 and projects must be completed by fall 2017.
We are sharing this with you in advance of a larger announcement later in the week and would appreciate your passing the opportunity along to eligible organizations in your network. Attached is a grant overview. More information, including the online grant application link, are available at http://www.nrpa.org/greeninfrastructure. The due date for applications is April 29.
National Recreation & Park Association
22377 Belmont Ridge Road
Ashburn, Virginia 20148
office: (703) 858-2177
mobile: (703) 314-8846
fax: (703) 858-0794
The Resilience Roundup highlights
CIRCA's presence in the news, provides links to recent local/state/national news articles related to resilience and adaptation, and announces upcoming events and seminars.
The Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation's (CIRCA) mission is to increase the resilience and sustainability of vulnerable communities along Connecticut's coast and inland waterways to the growing impacts of climate change and extreme weather on the natural, built, and human environment. The institute is located at the University of Connecticut's Avery Point campus and includes faculty from across the university. CIRCA is a partnership between UConn and the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CT DEEP).