Reports of flooding cropped up across New London County Thursday as heavy rain and thunderstorms moved through the area, but a city official said Friday that the flooding had mostly receded by early Thursday evening and not caused much lasting damage.
"The actual flooding was drained out by about 6 o'clock last night," said Brian Sear, New London's director of public works. ""What the problem was was the volume in such a short period of time."
Courtney Bitters, a bartender/server at Gaspar's Restaurant on Bank Street holds the door open so sous chef Sean Mirsky can sweep water out of the dining room after floodwaters from a heavy thunderstorm moved through New London Thursday.
Residents walk through floodwaters after a heavy thunderstorm caused flash flooding on Bank Street in New London Thursday.
Sear said the storm dropped as much as two inches of rain per hour on the area, which led to flash flooding that affected about six intersections throughout town.
By Friday, the only damage left from the storm were a couple of sinkholes that had cropped up as a result of the flooding, Sear said.
New London received 1.34 inches of rain around 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, according to Gary Lessor, meteorologist with the Western Connecticut State University Weather Center.
By 6 p.m., the city had received 2.52 inches of rain. Lessor said Thursday that the city could get a total of 3 inches by Friday morning.
NEW HAVEN >> As scorching heat taxed air conditioners and challenged seasonal records this past week, it also prompted several Greater New Haven school districts to send children home early - a rare move during warm weather that school officials said was made to protect students.
Highs in the upper 80s and low 90s on Tuesday and Wednesday resulted in at least one day of early dismissals at schools in more than 40 districts statewide, including Madison, North Haven, West Haven, East Hampton, Litchfield, Plymouth, Regions 10 and 14, Thomaston and Torrington.
Technical and private schools that dismissed students early were Emmett O'Brien Technical High School in Ansonia, Notre Dame High School in West Haven, Oliver Wolcott Technical High School in Torrington, Platt Technical High School in Milford, St. Lawrence School in West Haven, St. Vincent de Paul School in East Haven and Common Ground High School in New Haven.
Common Ground doesn't have air conditioning in all of its rooms and students there were sent home at noon Wednesday as temperatures climbed.
Common Ground Executive Director Melissa Spear said she believes that was the best option for students. She said she didn't think it was reasonable to have them trying to focus and get work done when classroom temperatures were nearing 90 degrees.
WTNH Chief Meteorologist Gil Simmons said Greater New Haven occasionally sees September days with temperatures in the upper 80s and low 90s. But before this week, the last three-day stretch with such temperatures was in the 1980s.
NBC Connecticut reported this week that temperatures at Bradley International Airport hit 93 degrees Monday, 96 degrees Tuesday and 92 degrees Wednesday, making for the first September heat wave since 1983.
Simmons said temperatures for this time of year are typically in upper 70s.
Washington - Federal scientists said Wednesday they expect nuisance flooding to increase in many places along the nation's coasts in coming months.
A combination of sea level rise from human caused global warming and the giant El Nino will likely combine to increase the type of minor street flooding that causes much inconvenience but no major damage, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In 10 of the 27 coastal communities that NOAA examined, scientists predict the number of nuisance flood days to increase 33 to 125 percent with the current large El Nino. And it's likely to be the worst in the Mid-Atlantic region where nuisance floods could happen about once a week from New Jersey to North Carolina. The nuisance flood season runs mostly from fall to early spring.
NOAA oceanographer William Sweet examined data going back to 1920 in some cases and found the flooding is not only increasing with climate change and rising seas, but "some of these areas you can get it with no rain at all - high-tide flooding."
These "sunny day flooding" events are becoming more common. For example, Wilmington, North Carolina, used to average one day of nuisance flooding a year in 1960 but between May 2014 and April 2015, that city had 71 such flood days, according to NOAA data. Annapolis, Maryland, went from four to 41 flood days and Sandy Hook, New Jersey, jumped from two to 21.
El Nino - a general warming of parts of the Pacific that changes weather worldwide - brings nuisance flooding to a new level. That's because in the Pacific, the ocean is warmer and warm water expands, Sweet said. In the Atlantic, the phenomenon brings more coastal-hugging storms and winds.
"Expect that sea level rise will progress like steps of a kitten, punctured by swipes of a lion," said Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, who wasn't part of the report.
Sweet is forecasting that with El Nino, Norfolk, Virginia, to go from about eight flood days to 18 this fall, winter and spring. Washington is forecast to jump from 33 to 53 nuisance floods days. Sandy Hook should get about 40 such days and Baltimore is likely to jump from two weeks of nuisance flooding to three weeks.
Sweet looked at increased nuisance flooding in Boston; Providence, Rhode Island; New London, Connecticut; Battery Park, Kings Point, and Montauk, New York; Atlantic City and Sandy Hook, New Jersey; Philadelphia; Lewes, Delaware; Baltimore and Annapolis, Maryland; Washington; Norfolk, Virginia; Wilmington, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina; Fort Pulaski, Georgia; Fernandina Beach, Key West and Mayport, Florida; Port Isabel and Galveston, Texas; La Jolla, California; San Francisco, Seattle and Honolulu.
The report by Sweet is not published in a peer reviewed journal, but four outside scientists examined it for The Associated Press and praised the work.
NASA oceanographer Bill Patzert, who wasn't part of the research, said the NOAA forecast "shows that the natural hazards don't necessarily have to be catastrophic like (hurricanes) Katrina or Sandy. They can creep up on you today. What is a nuisance today, in a couple decades will be a serious problem for some communities."
NOAA report: http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/special-reports/sweet-marra-nuisance-flooding-2015.pdf
Providence - Vast stretches of the iconic tall grasses that dot the Atlantic coast were destroyed during Superstorm Sandy, removing a vital protective buffer for the region's shoreline.
Now, the New England Wild Flower Society and its partners are planning to collect the seeds of native plants like saltmarsh rush and little bluestem and replant them in areas battered by the deadly 2012 storm.
The $2.3 million project will help make these habitats more resilient to future storms, especially the coastal areas that act as a buffer during storms, the Society said. For inland states, the seeds will be used to help restore river banks in areas that flooded extensively during Sandy.
The two-year project is the first large-scale, coordinated, seed banking effort in the Eastern United States. It is part of the Seeds of Success program, a national initiative the Bureau of Land Management first established in 2001. Wildlife refuges in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island are participating in the New England collection effort.
The Society's partners, North Carolina Botanical Garden and Mid-Atlantic Regional Seed Bank, part of the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, will collect and distribute seeds in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey and New York.
Bill Brumback, conservation director for New England Wild Flower Society, said he and his team are collecting seeds from inland areas of wildlife refuges and replanting them near the coast.
"We know from experience that having natural habitats there, along the coast, as a buffer for storms is very important," Brumback said. "We know restoring these areas is going to provide protection for future storms."
Many common species of native New England plants were damaged when the storm slammed into the East Coast. A shortage of native seeds left the area vulnerable to erosion and invasive plants, the Bureau of Land Management said.
Until recently, restoration projects in the Eastern United States have had to rely on plant material from other parts of the country.
"There's a big push to collect seed from local sources," said Nick Ernst, a wildlife biologist at the John H. Chafee and Sachuest Point national wildlife refuges in Rhode Island. "They're adapted to the local growing conditions, which will increase survival rates."
Some of the seeds will be stored in a seed bank for future restoration projects. About 50 species have been collected since the project began in July, and Brumback and his teammates want to make about 200 trips to collect seeds in the next year.
"Sandy is just one event," Brumback said. "Other events are coming, and we want to be able to restore the coastline." Continued...
MADISON >> Students at dozens of schools across the state-including several in Greater New Haven-will be going home early today as temperatures top 90 degrees.
More than 40 schools have announced early dismissals, including public schools in Madison, Milford and North Haven. Notre Dame High School in West Haven and Emmett O'Brien Technical High School will also be sending students home early.
Climate is back on the agenda. The Environmental Protection Agency issued its Clean Power Plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation by nearly one-third by 2030. Pope Francis' galvanizing encyclical put climate change on the world's moral agenda. And now Islamic scholars from 20 countries are demanding substantive commitments from the Paris climate negotiations opening Nov. 30.
Meanwhile, global temperatures made July the warmest month ever recorded, and 2015 is on track to be the hottest year. How can Connecticut do its part to help protect ourselves and the world from devastating global warming? One way is to reconsider the state's climate protection strategy.
The core of climate protection is to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy and to increase the efficiency with which we use our energy. Despite recently ramping up our rooftop solar and energy efficiency programs, the state's current energy strategy continues to increase our dependence on fossil fuels, especially natural gas.
The people with the money can see the writing on the wall. Solar and batteries are a lethal combination for the future of energy on the grid. Electric cars are going to be coming into the future also with their battery banks ready to support the grid. When we get to the point of a 100 million...
The greatest climate protection plan will be pointless if it is not backed by a broad public determination to implement it. Since working families and low-income urban communities face the greatest potential impacts from climate change, the council should ensure the voices of environmental justice communities and labor are fully represented in climate policy deliberations.
Winning the struggle against climate change will require that all of us hold each other and our institutions accountable for setting and achieving ambitious aims. As Gov. Malloy concluded in his remarks to the new council, "we should not waste the opportunity to lead. ... let's get the job done."
John Humphries is the organizer for the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs (CTClimateandJobs.org) and a member of the Governor's Council on Climate Change. John Harrity is president of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists and is on the steering committee for the Connecticut Roundtable on Climate and Jobs.
STONINGTON - Hundreds of thousands of pounds of valuable fish caught off Connecticut's coast are thrown overboard every year, and 80 percent of them are dead by the time they hit the water, experts say.
Commercial fishermen, environmentalists and state officials say a prime reason for such a stunning waste of a natural resource is an out-of-date federal regulatory system that hasn't kept up with the realities of a changing climate and shifting fish populations.
"It's just a wholly unjustifiable practice," said Peter Auster, a senior research scientist at Mystic Aquarium. "This waste ... is pervasive in the way we're managing fishing."
"The whole construct of the [regulatory] system needs to be questioned," said Curt Johnson, executive director of the Connecticut Fund for the Environment and Save the Sound.
The problem is that federal fishing regulations are designed to protect fish species based on where they used to be most plentiful. Some of those fish populations have now shifted their range north as a result of global warming, but federal fishing quotas haven't changed. As a result, Connecticut fishermen are saddled with low, out-of-date quotas, forcing them to throw back huge amounts of certain species, even though those fish have become plentiful off New England.
Exactly how the regulations should be reformed is a controversial issue involving the competing interests of commercial fishing in different states, congressional politics, disagreements over long-term environmental goals and fishing economics.
Climate change is the complicating factor. Water temperatures in Long Island Sound have increased by about 1 degree per decade the past 40 years. The trend has triggered a major shift in species that now thrive in Long Island Sound, according to marine scientists and fishery experts.
"At the same time, fish that like warmer waters, including fluke and black sea bass, appear to be flourishing off the shores of southern New England" Just so readers know, C Bass and fluke are not strangers to southern New England waters. They have always resided in our waters in...
Studies show populations of traditional cold-water species, like lobster and winter flounder, have declined dramatically since the late 1990s.
At the same time, fish that like warmer waters, including fluke and black sea bass, appear to be flourishing off the shores of southern New England.
"The climate is changing," said Bobby Guzzo, a commercial fisherman who operates two boats out of Stonington, "and so are the fish." Continued...
A waterfront or coastal property often holds a strong appeal for homeowners due to qualities such as beautiful views and easy access to boating or swimming. But as Hurricanes Irene and Sandy demonstrated, these properties can be vulnerable to storms if they are not properly protected.
Flooding is a major concern for homes on the shoreline. Rising waters will damage structural components and personal belongings, and salt water from coastal flooding will corrode components such as electrical system and plumbing.
One of the best ways to protect a home from the flooding caused by hurricanes and other storms is to elevate the home out of harm's way. The Shore Up CT program, a part of the state's Shoreline Resiliency Fund, provides low-interest loans for homeowners who wish to complete this work.
Homeowners in each of Connecticut's 25 communities with frontage on Long Island Sound-including Old Saybrook, Old Lyme, East Lyme, Waterford, New London, Groton, and Stonington-are eligible to apply for funding through Shore Up CT. A property must be located in a flood zone defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency of National Flood Insurance Program to qualify for funding.
Shore Up CT is open to both primary and secondary homes occupied by an owner for at least 14 days of the year, as well as owner-occupied rental properties of one to four units and businesses with 100 or fewer employees. The owner must have flood and property service for the life of the loan, and they must also be current on local, state, and federal taxes in order to receive funding.
Emmeline Harrigan, program manager for Shore Up CT, says the average loan offered through the program is $135,000. However, homeowners can apply for sums as low as $10,000 or as high as $300,000. This funding is applied at certain construction milestones.
The loans are paid back over a 15-year period with no pre-payment penalty. There is a 2.75 percent interest rate, but the first year is interest- and payment-free.
In addition to new building elevation projects, Shore Up CT offers funding for the refinancing of existing projects. In order to qualify for this funding, a home must have been raised between Oct. 29, 2013 and July 28, 2014 and the owner must have a certificate of occupancy.
Projects approved by Shore Up CT must raise a structure to the level of the 500-year floodplain, plus one additional foot of freeboard. Harrigan says this elevation is required for state-funded projects in the floodplain, but will also provide a longer return on investment for homeowners as shoreline flooding will be more common due to rising sea levels and severe storms in the coming years.
"You don't want to do the least in terms of protection," says Harrigan. "You want to go to a higher level."
A person interested in raising their home must take several steps before any work can commence. These steps include having a land surveyor determine how high a home needs to be raised, getting a building permit, testing the soil to make sure it can support a new foundation, and ensuring that the work will comply with any zoning regulations.
The new foundation should be designed by an architect or structural engineer. A contractor or professional house lifting service will raise the home using a hydraulic lift, structural steel supports, and temporary cribbing system while the foundation is being built.
Funding through Shore Up CT can be used for all of these expenses as well as the installation of stairs and landings, soil stabilization, the raising of existing porches and decks, and certain wind-proofing measures such as permanent storm shutters and stronger vents and soffits. Other costs-such as new additions or the replacement of utilities that are not up to code-are ineligible.
The program's website at shoreupct.org allows interested homeowners to pre-qualify for a loan and schedule a time to speak with a representative about a home project. For more information, call 203-910-2446 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
NORWICH - A Category 3 hurricane with forces not seen in Eastern Connecticut for nearly 100 years barrels into the mouth of the Connecticut River.
Roads are blocked by downed trees and utility lines. Power is expected to be out for up to a month in some places, and flood waters have made access to core facilities all but impossible.
With years to prepare, however, local governments have stocked up on bottled water, prepared meals and emergency generators to help residents ride out the aftermath until help arrives.
A decade after Hurricane Katrina changed the Gulf Coast's landscape and two years removed from back-to-back storms that crippled Connecticut's economy, that scenario is real. But while the skies are still calm, area business development groups are working with their clients to get them ready for the next big storm.
"Everyone that hasn't planned ahead is going to get stuck. We're all locked to our smart phones and our Internet, but what are you going to do when your computer goes down?" Paul Yellen, Plainfield's long time emergency management director, asked during a recent table top exercise arranged by PrepareCT, an alliance between the state's Small Business Development Centers and 16 partners across the state.
The Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut is the local partner in the alliance. Bill Sheehan, a member of the Southeastern Connecticut Enterprise Region, or seCTer, board and an expert in the field of emergency preparedness, led the seminar at Three Rivers Community College.
"Business resiliency and preparedness and the ability to bounce back in the case of a disaster is really economic development, and that's why seCTer is involved and will be going forward," executive director Stephen MacKenzie said.
In January 2012, a state commission assembled by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to examine steps that can be taken to prepare Connecticut for future natural disasters released its findings.
The Two Storm Panel reported that economic damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 and then a freak nor'easter two months later topped $750 million and left more than 1.6 million people without power.
Then, in October 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit. By February 2013, more than $50 million in federal assistance poured into Connecticut to help with recovery efforts, including $36.7 million worth of low-interest loans for homeowners, renters and businesses.
"We've had blizzards, we've had excessive rain and flooding, it's been a whole plethora of things we've had that we've had to deal with so businesses have to be ready 12 months out of the year to respond to emergency situations," said state Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, and a member of the Two Storm Panel. "It's not just making sure public works can open up roads." Continued...
TORRINGTON - Sixty years ago today, it destroyed homes and businesses, claimed lives and forever changed downtown Torrington. In the Flood of 1955's aftermath, the community, the state of Connecticut and the federal Army Corps of Engineers set out to make sure it would never happen again.
But the extremely effective flood control measures they implemented came at an aesthetic and environmental cost that, generations later, is butting up against the city's vision for a downtown revitalization built around the Naugatuck River.
While the river always had more to do with Torrington's now-gone industrial success than any kind of tourism or downtown ambience, Mayor Elinor Carbone and Economic Development Director Erin Wilson see it as a backbone of what they hope will be a resurgence of residential and retail development.
The city acquired an old factory site on Franklin Drive and built a parking lot officials envision as the launching point of a riverwalk. They have closed part of Franklin Drive down to traffic, and relocated Torrington's popular "Main Street Market Place" street festival there this summer, now renamed The Marketplace.
There's (at least) one problem. The Naugatuck River along Franklin Street and through the downtown is typically a trickle of water, barely visible to human beings separated by concrete and distance.
"It's a featureless no man's land full of rocks and riprap between the pedestrian and the river, and that's because of the flood control measures," said Mark McEachern, executive director of the Torrington Historical Society.
After the flood, the Army Corps of Engineers built dams that better controlled the flow of the river, and it widened and deepened the Naugatuck's riverbed through the downtown. It prohibits trees and some other forms of vegetation along its banks and levee system, worsening the aesthetics.
"You used to be able to walk on Franklin Street and be right near the water. Essentially, Franklin Street was a river walk 100 years ago," McEachern said.
Wilson said the city might attempt to "work with the Army Corps and convince them that the river is a big asset .... adding more water somehow" and easing restrictions on the planting of trees, wildflowers and other vegetation.
"They are opening up," she said, by letting the city use levee areas as part of its walking trail system. "I know they've done creative things in other communities." Continued...