Thursday, September 01, 2016

Five Years After Hurricane Irene, Vermont Still Striving for Resilience

After the devastating flooding that came with an otherwise unremarkable Category 1 storm, measures to prevent future flooding have taken hold.

Rushing floodwaters during Irene took down even ski lodges in Killington, Vermont in 2011. (Credit: Getty Images) Click to Enlarge.
After Irene swept through, Vermont set about understanding the devastation and working toward resilience.  The state passed legislation increasing government's role in flood response, and launched a series of websites, including Flood Ready Vermont and Vermont Climate Assessment, to make residents aware of its programs.  Some municipalities have bought out homeowners in the worst devastation zones, in order to prevent future damage.  Roads and bridges have been rebuilt to withstand future floods.  The state's largest utility, Green Mountain Power, said it is working toward decentralizing its grid to make power outages easier to contain and easier to recover from.

Most importantly, said Ned Swanberg, the state's flood hazard mapping coordinator: "The science has been integrated into policy.  There's been this alignment of incentives for municipalities to be responsible for this larger purpose.  It's in the statute now that state plans and municipal plans need to address flood resilience and river corridor protection."
A Wetter Future Looms

"Irene should be a reminder that a lot of mortality from tropical storms comes from rain," said Kerry Emanuel, professor of atmospheric science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Emanuel said Irene was a 1-in-1,000-year event based on the standards of the 20th century.  "At the end of this century, if we do nothing to curb emissions, that 1,000-year event in rain would be a 100-year event," he said.

Read more at Five Years After Hurricane Irene, Vermont Still Striving for Resilience

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