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October 15, 2012

Officials share extreme weather concerns, experiences

Wild Center forum raises climate concerns

TUPPER LAKE — Extreme precipitation events were the topic of a forum held recently at the Wild Center here.

Local government officials, community planners and others who work closely with municipal and county governments in the Adirondack region discussed their experiences and official predictions of extreme weather events caused by climate change, which are expected to be more severe in the future. 

“Irene cost $16 billion; Jay alone is $3 million in debt from that storm,” Jay Town Supervisor Randy Douglas told those at the gathering. “It was the seventh-most costly disaster in U.S. history, and seventh out of the 10 worst disasters since 2000. 

“Towns cannot afford repairs alone for these events.”

Many attendees observed that local weather patterns are changing, and that as those responsible for community welfare, they plan to consider some new ways of doing business that require internal and external input in preparing for weather emergencies, including:

▶ More streamlined communications internally within towns and externally with support agencies, such as the State Department of Transportation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

▶ Better floodplain maps, data and hydraulic analyses to predict vulnerabilities and justify upgrades to infrastructure. 

▶ Long-term planning and budgeting and additional funding for infrastructure upgrades to meet flood prediction requirements (such as right-sized culverts, higher bridges and vital services located outside floodplains). 

▶ General-public, town-council and municipal-employee awareness of the issues and guidance for preparing for and responding to extreme weather events. 

EXTENSIVE MANDATES

In late 2011 the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, which funded the forum, released its ClimAID report, which outlines the predicted changes New York’s communities can anticipate from climate change, in sectors ranging from flooding to drought to health to vulnerable infrastructure to energy grid outages. 

That report was discussed at the session.

In a survey completed by attendees, 92 percent said they had experienced extreme weather events — often multiple times — in their community recently. 

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