Monday, August 28, 2017

Harvey: PA Climate Change Impacts Assessment Warns Of Increased Risk Of Injury, Death From Extreme Weather Events

In a Tweet on Sunday morning, the National Weather Service called the torrential rainfall in Texas and nearby areas from now Tropical Storm Harvey “unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced.”
Some are calling Harvey a 500 to 1,000 year storm.
But much closer to home, the August 2015 PA Climate Impacts Assessment Report done by a team of scientists at Penn State University for the Department of Environmental Protection during the Corbett and Wolf Administrations warns “The risk of injury and death from extreme weather events could increase as a consequence of climate change”
The report continues, saying climate change “will increase the probability that individual storms will be stronger and with heavier rainfall” and “non-tropical extreme rainfall events are expected to increase.”
The consequences of more extreme weather events both in warm and cold weather will, according to the report, increase pathogen loads, nutrient and sediment runoff polluting streams and rivers, cause damage to infrastructure from flooding, wind and snow and ice storms (including related snow-melt flooding), deaths caused by heat waves or extremely cold weather, increased tree mortality and increasing trigger events for pollen-induced asthma.
The PA Emergency Management Agency estimated in 2007 329,337 people lived on the 100-year floodplain statewide (that was estimated by others to be 430,000 in 2016), 404,860 lived on the 200-year floodplain and 593,040 live on the 500-year floodplain in Pennsylvania.  This ranks Pennsylvania in the top five states for inland flooding threat.
Statewide flood damage estimates from PEMA show in a 100-year flood event 131,735 homes are at risk of damage, 161,944 homes in a 200-year event and 237,216 homes in a 500-year flood.
Over the last 10 years in Pennsylvania there have been over 18,000 homeowner claims made for flood damage under the federal Flood Insurance Program totaling $515 million in damage, according to the Department of Insurance.  Click Here to research flood insurance options or talk to your insurance professional.
Statewide commercial economic loss estimates by PEMA show in a 100-year flood event there would be $8.5 billion, in a 200-year flood event there would be $9.5 billion and in a 500-year flood $12.1 billion in commercial economic loss.
Flood damage estimates are available by county from PEMA in the ArcMap format.
Pennsylvania’s inland flooding threat is projected to increase by 40 percent by 2050.
Click Here for a copy of the Penn State PA Climate Impacts Assessment Report.  [Note: The report has not yet been finalized based on the comments received in 2015.]
Trump Revokes Flood Zone Protection
On August 15 President Trump announced he issued a new Executive Order rolling back rules designed to protect federally-funded infrastructure projects from flooding and dangerous storms caused by climate change.
“This overregulated permitting process is a massive, self-inflicted wound on our country,” Trump said standing at a podium in Trump Tower in New York City. “It’s disgraceful. Denying our people much needed investments in their community.”
No amount of precautions could have dealt with the sudden, catastrophic flooding caused over the last few days by Harvey, but it seems like a prudent step to at least evaluate the flood risks to federally-funded infrastructure projects before taxpayer money is invested in them.
You can’t say we haven’t been warned.
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