100 Year Weather Event?

Albert Kaufman

Will we learn from the current weather event? I suggest we treat it not like a "100 year event" but plan for the possibility that it may happen again next week, and next year. Let's plan for the future not be run over by it.

100 Year Weather Event?

Oregon Country Fair Grounds Under Water

My heart goes out to everyone in the Pacific Northwest who is being adversely affected by the current rains.

In the Pacific Northwest we're used to heavy rain and all that it entails. But the recent rains have led to a level of flooding and hardship that people are calling a "100 Year Event". I most recently heard people talking about this at Breitenbush where I spent new years and learned that two of the newly built bridges that span trails there had been washed out. Next up have been the January rains which have led to roads washing out, peoples' houses being flooded and lots of landslides. Some towns like Vernonia, Oregon, seem to be having repeat flood events and the recent news is of thousands having to leave homes around the state, car accidents and lots of property damage.

My main question is "is this global climate change and its effects?" If so, are those who are calling this a "100 year event" actually missing the possibility that this may be how life here will continue to be from now on - rainy, with more and more rain and displacement.

I've long been following demographic trends around population growth and have been making the connection between our increased numbers and our effect on the environment. More pollution, species loss, rapid glacier melt, and running out of resources like oil have all been shown to be happening on an upward trend for years. What is less obvious is how all of this effects our world in places like Oregon, where we're in a situation like the frog in the slowly heating water - we probably won't change what we're doing until the heat is turned way up, otherwise, the frog, in this scenario slowly boils and dies. Now, with the current rain, we have a warning sign that can't be ignored.

Will we be smart and move towards actions that will slow global climate change or will we continue to adjust to its adverse effects and grin and bear it? Some smart moves that I think Oregonians could take that might increase our chances of experiencing a better future would be to plant trees and stop clear-cutting the ones we have. This would improve our (and the rest of the world's) air quality, help control storm water and erosion problems and keep hillsides from sliding. I also think it would make sense for there to be some sort of program to move people out of floodplains and onto higher ground.

If there's a chance that this year's rains might repeat regularly what other moves should we as a society consider to avoid the high costs of the damage and to keep us all safe and dry? I'm sure there are hundreds. Should we be removing any extra pavement that exists as the group Depave works to do? Should we be planting millions of fruit and nut trees to make ourselves more food self-reliant and cut down on shipping costs of food? Are millions of new community and backyard gardens in our future? I'd love to see a state-wide or bioregion-wide analysis done of how we currently use our land and other resources and plug in possible weather events into the equation. I'm sure that would shed light on how prepared we will be for any future contingencies.

Will we learn from the current weather event? I suggest we treat it not like a "100 year event" but plan for the possibility that it may happen again next week, and next year. Let's plan for the future not be run over by it.

ed: some interesting feedback: "The 100 year storm doesn't mean in only occurs every 100 years...

The term is a shorthand engineers phrase for a specific amount of rain during a certain time period. There can be a 100 year storm in an hour, day or extended period.

examples:

1 hour--2" 24 hours--6"

The phrase is very misleading to the general public."

Comments

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    There are so many good ideas in this story, thank you!

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    Yes, many great ideas.

    We'll never be sure if climate change is influenced by human activity, but we can learn about how weather events effect our lives, and what our responses could or should be.

    It is clear that here in the Willamette Valley, many past weather events have had an impact. Some examples are the glacial drumlins out in Yamhill County; the sedimentary deposits from the Missoula floods; and our own Willamette meteorite that was carried from elsewhere and deposited high on a hill in West Linn.

    What we can do for sure is to be careful with our recovery efforts - should we rebuild in known flood plains? Can we rebuild with stronger and more efficient structures? Will our "fixes" do more harm than good?

    Ideas like depave.org seem worthwhile, as long as complete elimination of the functions provided aren't the goal. We still need pathways thru parks and even parking areas that are environmentally friendly and both functional and long-lasting, impervious to future weather events.

    We all have to be a little smarter and more careful to prevent harm or even death. It was sad to hear about the young family in Salem who apparently drove from a parking lot into a overflowing creek that looked too much like a large puddle.

    Little steps will help, and we all can contribute a little. We just need to be careful if we think we can seriously alter the plans nature has for our short stay on this planet.

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    The evidence is in that global warming is caused by human impact through greenhouse gases we produce. What is not conclusive or clear is how global warming will manifest, and in what parts of the world. Will we turn into a swamp here in Western Oregon because of torrential rains or will we turn into a desert because of the lack of snowpack that stores our water? That is not clear.

    I saw a good part of Salem under water in 1964, houses and cars floating down the Willamette. What caused that combination of weather to bring on those floods could not have been ascertained then or now. What was decided was that the Army Corps of Engineers had to adopt a different strategy for flood control. Beyond that nothing could have been determined or decided at that time.

    As communities we must make collective responses to conditions that affect us all, both in the conditions as they manifest and, to the extent possible, the long range human-made causes as we understand them. The politics of this are notably difficult since any policy that affects vested financial interests will run into the kind of deceptive campaigns and politics we have seen today.

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    I decided to post this on Daily Kos, as well. There have been about 100 comments so far. The conversation is worth a read.

    http://pdx.be/weather

    Thanks, Mike and Bill for your reasoned responses.

open discussion

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