Local News

January 6, 2013

Adapting to extreme weather

Towns, villages plan for changing weather patterns


Always a key indicator, ice on the lakes tells the longer-term history.

“Lake Champlain rarely freezes completely in the winter now,” Stager said.

And the ice record goes back 200 years.

“When Thomas Jefferson was here, it used to freeze in November.”

The trend toward extreme-weather events is the result of an atmospheric shift, Stager explained.

“A warmer climate makes the atmosphere more turbulent. Expect warmer weather and plan accordingly,” Stager said.

“Expect more extreme events. How can we use this information rather than get depressed? We add up the gains and add up the losses (and ask): ‘What does a warmer world mean to us here?’ Heating bills go down, there is less cost for road maintenance. But it is kind of hard to run a bobsled without snow.”


APA Chairwoman LeiLani Ulrich asked if there is anything emerging from science for best planning-management practices to accommodate for extreme weather.

The engineering basis has to be recalibrated, Stager said.

In an extreme event, it is important to pay attention to locations where damage occurs and to map out areas flooded.

Flood maps were redrawn when Lake Champlain topped 103 feet in the spring of 2011.

And those maps provide a smaller, local version of future sea-level rise, Stager explained.

One of the benchmarks for rural safety looks to protect hamlets, settled for centuries along riverbanks, as the hub of the most roads and intersections.


Miller said the Ausable River Association’s research tallied 200 of the major culverts and bridges along the river and its East- and West-branch tributaries. The survey was done before and after Tropical Storm Irene.

Climate adaptation here, she said, would look to redesign bridges, roads, water barriers and culverts, building them higher and/or larger.

Flooded culverts wreak havoc in many ways, Miller said.

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