By Joe Paduda
We are now in the hurricane season's “most active phase”, a period that will last till October. In the hurricane nesting grounds, wind shear, which tears budding storms apart, is declining. Meanwhile, there are a half-dozen big thunderstorms marching across Africa, some of which will develop into tropical depressions – the precursor to a hurricane. While it looks – at this writing, like they won’t bother us, things could change, and change quickly.
Sandy and Irene, our most unwelcome visitors, were two “hundred year” storms which both decided to drop in on Madison within a couple months. While we don’t know if we will have other surprise guests this year, we do know that conditions are ripe, and getting riper.
It’s not just hurricanes and it isn’t just this year. There’s no question weather patterns are changing, and there’s ample evidence those changes are going to continue, if not accelerate. This summer’s long and brutal heat wave in the northeast, the droughts in the Grain Belt, and the wave of deadly fires in the Rockies and California are all harbingers of the future, one of more frequent, and more severe, “weather events”.
The question is, are we ready?
For Madison, the answer is troubling. In fact, it doesn’t look like we’re even “getting ready to get ready.”
The State just released a comprehensive plan to prepare for the impact of climate change. The plan, which addresses agriculture, public health, infrastructure, and natural resources, considers how where and to what extent beaches, roads, sewers, electric grids, and emergency services will be affected, and what needs to be done to protect infrastructure, resources and services.
Other Towns – including New Haven, Guilford and Groton – have been working on this issue for years, involving townspeople, identifying areas at risk, assessing the potential impact of storms and sea level rise, and developing comprehensive plans to address those risks.
Unfortunately, Madison has yet to begin the process of engaging townspeople in the issue, finding out what people think, developing consensus, and turning that consensus into action.
Madison’s elected officials have done an admirable job as stewards of the Town’s finances. Madison’s enviable bond rating is proof positive that thrift, the involvement of many thoughtful and responsible residents on boards and committees, and careful planning combine to ensure a solid financial future.
That same approach, and that same thoughtful, responsible citizenry must be brought to bear if we are to ensure Madison and our beaches, roads, electric grid, buildings, sanitation, and public safety are prepared for the next storm.
We don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Much of the work has already been done by our neighbors to the west. We do have to get started, and time is not on our side.