As we collectively move forward with our efforts to reduce the risks to people and nature from sea level rise and flooding along our rivers and coasts, we can never forget that our decisions before – and after storm events – directly affect the magnitude of impacts from future events. People live and work in these places by the sea and have cherished their homes and traditions for generations. It’s not easy to leave. Many will decide to rebuild in the same places, but hopefully in a more resilient manner, where possible.
We have made some important progress here in Connecticut to better prepare our communities for the coastal hazards that have always existed – but are now amplified by more intense storms and higher sea levels.
In August, Bridgeport – Connecticut’s most populous city – completed a report summarizing recommendations from a series of Climate Preparedness workshops held earlier this year. Following extreme weather events, including Tropical Storm Irene, the October 2011 Halloween Nor’easter and a recent tornado, this community planning process, completed by a coalition of partners (including Greater Bridgeport Regional Council, The Nature Conservancy, Clean Air Cool Planet and the Regional Plan Association), identified the city’s strengths and vulnerabilities resulting in a call to action.
As with all communities that go through this engagement process, it is about getting started on the path to resilience early. Already recognized by the National Weather Service as the first StormReady community in the state, Bridgeport was also selected as a national case study for addressing climate impacts and reducing risk to infrastructure, presenting at a White House GreenGov 2012 conference in Washington D.C. in October.
Using NOAA’s Roadmap for Adapting to Coastal Risk and The Nature Conservancy’s Coastal Resilience tool, the Bridgeport workshops integrated maps showing projected flooding from extreme events, like a Category 3 hurricane (similar to the 1938 hurricane) combined with sea level rise, into a community-driven dialogue on risk, choices, and actions. Areas identified as top priorities include:
- adjusting building codes and land use policy to accommodate flooding;
- incorporating natural infrastructure (such as marshes) to reduce risk;
- improving social services capacity and education; and
- factoring hazards and climate change into all critical infrastructure improvement and redevelopment plans
Image credit: Adam Whelchel/TNC (A condemned home after Hurricane Sandy).