Thursday, January 12, 2012

Want to see what a hurricane could do?

Jan Ellen Spiegel in the Connecticut Mirror: Nobody had to convince Branford First Selectman Anthony "Unk" DaRos that the water level in Long Island Sound is higher than it used to be. He's spent four decades as a stonemason, much of it raising docks all along the shoreline. "Why would they build a dock that goes underwater at high tide," he asked. "Well they didn't." And now after Tropical Storm Irene laid waste to several waterfront sections of his town, he's embarked on a flood-risk review of every town-owned structure.

He'll have access to more assistance than ever to do that. In the last year The Nature Conservancy has added its Coastal Resilience free web tool, developed with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and others, to a growing number of similar ones that help communities map and analyze the potential effects of sea level rise and more frequent and virulent storms.

Connecticut is part of the Conservancy's initial project that includes Long Island and the New York City area. Its complex programming includes parameters for sea level rise and various storm intensities through 2080, with filters that show roads; critical structures like water treatment plants, schools and hospitals; various demographics like income; ecological effects such as salt marsh destruction; and economic factors like replacement cost.

...A white paper the Conservancy expects to release this month will show that a category three storm with the already existing sea level rise would result in temporary flooding in Connecticut of nearly 45,000 acres including 10 airports, five train stations, 645 miles of road and 131 miles of train tracks. Sea level rise alone, it reports, by 2020, could permanently flood 13,00 acres, six airports, 94 miles of road and 20 miles of train tracks.

"You start going from the coast of Connecticut to an archipelago," said Adam Whelchel, an ecologist who is director of science for the Conservancy in Connecticut. "This really wakes people up."...

A Nature Conservancy map of what a Category 2 hurricane could do to East Haven, Connecticut

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