For flood expert and engineer Franco Montalto, decades of research were suddenly amplified by an actual emergency in the Adirondacks while he was on vacation with his family this week.
In the middle of the night, they were awakened by a ranger knocking on the door of their lakeside hut. The house was surrounded by a foot of water and had to be evacuated.
“It was very meaningful to be able to experience these situations firsthand,” he said.
Dr. Montalto, a professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia who writes about flooding as a member of the New York City Climate Change Panel, knows better than anyone that climate change can create unpredictable and variable weather patterns that can be triggered. know. “A chain of events”.
Floods can occur “in different places, at different times for different reasons,” he said in a recent interview.
Cathy Hochul and other New York City officials have warned of extreme weather that will become “our new normal” as devastating rainfall this week caused massive flooding in parts of the Hudson Valley and across the United States.
Rohit T. Agarwala, New York City’s chief climate officer, issued an even more dire warning that “weather is changing faster than infrastructure can keep up.”
Thousands of projects are underway across the state to combat the effects of climate change, including reimagining flood-resistant housing, updating weather models, and competing to manage overtopping. But many will take decades to complete, and there are concerns that that will be enough.
“It’s like repairing a boat, but it’s already full,” said Jeremy Porter, director of climate impact research at the First Street Foundation, a Brooklyn nonprofit that studies extreme weather. Told.
Nevertheless, New York is rushing to pick things up.
Last year, Democratic Gov. Ho Chul proposed and voters approved the Clean Water, Clean Air, Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act, which would devote $4.2 billion to local projects. He has $1.1 billion allocated for remediation and flood risk protection.
A ministry spokesman said the ministry is working with local governments to revitalize waterfronts, improve flood-prone infrastructure and improve roads, dams and bridges.
In the Hudson Valley, the Shoreline Project encourages nature-based management practices along the Hudson River. Working with Cornell University to develop climate-adapted landscape designs in riverside communities. Over the past decade, the state has overseen 40 restoration projects, including back-up power and waterproofing of critical facilities, which are now complete. Flood control headquarters have been set up in some towns and cities.
The Hudson Valley and parts of Vermont were the hardest hit last week, but some New York City officials say the 5th borough has the kind of natural defenses found in the rural Northeast — enough soil. I am concerned that there is a lack of drainage.
Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Edward Timbers said large paved cities, which have traditionally relied on sewage systems to handle storm runoff, don’t have many options for dealing with flooding. Stated. “Hundreds of millions of dollars” are being spent to refurbish and replace some of New York City’s 7,500 miles of sewers, but the system was not built with climate change in mind, he said. Stated.
Or, as Agarwala puts it, “there is no more space underground.”
That’s why the city is also focusing on above-ground drainage projects, installing infrastructure like thousands of rain gardens. A rain garden is a small green area along a street, often near a curb opening, that allows water to bypass the sewage system and instead be absorbed by a patch of soil. , broken stones and plants.
Road medians have also been redesigned to account for water runoff. Dr. Montalto said higher curbs could potentially keep water on the road rather than inundating buildings. He explained that when a road is resurfaced, curbs often stay the same height, making it easier for rainwater running down gutters to jump over them.
The city’s so-called bluebelt connects storm sewers to lakes and ponds, channeling excess water to these natural reservoirs. Agarwala said this could reduce, if not eliminate, flooding in roads and apartment basements. He cites New He Creek Bluebelt, which is part of his larger Mid Island Bluebelt project and is one of nearly 90 similar projects on Staten Island. I was. “It’s up and running now and it’s so beautiful. Our neighbors love it and no more flooding in that area of Staten Island.”
Dr Montalto added that authorities are also beginning to adopt a “flood safe” approach in neighborhood planning. By researching the causes of flooding in specific areas and constructing buildings to meet those specific challenges, damage can be minimized.
Cloudburst Infrastructure, a European concept born in New York, is an example of this kind of effort. Think sunken playgrounds and parks. During storms, it turns into a kind of basin. Construction will begin this fall on a recessed basketball court that will be part of a public housing complex in Queens, Jamaica.
Environmental studies professor Bernice Rosenzweig says low-income and middle-class residents, in particular, are often the hardest hit by flood disasters. are all located on the first floor or above) was the biggest concern.Science at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York
After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, buildings in coastal lowlands have been updated, but more work remains to be done on flood-prone homes in inland areas, she said. When the wreckage of Hurricane Ida hit two years ago, many affordable housing residents in non-coastal buildings were without heat or hot water for weeks.
Dr. Rosenzweig and co-author of the flood study, Dr. Montalto, said the city has taken many impressive first steps in working with researchers to track floods. But he hopes more sensors will be installed to measure flood depth and precipitation accumulation at very short intervals.
Today, the three major airports serving the city and the Central Park hub are the go-to sources for precipitation data. But in times of unpredictable and sometimes very localized storms, more measurement sites are needed, he said.
As for the rest of the state, Nicholas Rajkovic, director of the Resilient Buildings Lab at the University of Buffalo, emphasized the importance of community involvement, especially in the short term. “Often we look at technical solutions, but we also need to look at social factors and social cohesion,” he says. He mentioned community resilience hubs, public gathering spaces in towns and cities that also act as safe protection areas during extreme weather.
In the meantime, New Yorkers should stay prepared, officials and experts said.
Governor Kathy Hochul has urged New Yorkers to stock up on flashlights, food and water for the worst, and to have “escape routes” such as knowing where high ground is. Agarwala’s office is focused on letting New Yorkers know if they’re in flood zones, distributing inflatable seawalls to those in flood zones, and encouraging people to buy flood insurance. there is
Global warming will make flooding a more urgent problem, according to experts like Dr. Porter. Most New Yorkers, he said, may not yet be at the stage of having a emergency bag on hand, unless they live in a flood zone. However, you need to understand the risks in your area and prepare appropriately.
Agarwala said it’s up to New Yorkers to do whatever they can to stay safe. “With new weather patterns, we have to protect ourselves while we build the necessary infrastructure,” he continued.