Messages from the Council Chair

Planning for the worst weather

September 2017

As Texas and Florida continue to clean up from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and Puerto Ricans face months without power following Hurricane Maria, people across the region wonder: could an event of that magnitude happen here? What are we doing to prepare for extreme weather events?
Council Chair Alene TchourumoffAs a planning agency, the Metropolitan Council is taking note of the increase in extreme weather events. As the climate changes, the events our region experiences have the potential to become more severe. State Climatologist Mark Seely presented to our Committee of the Whole last year and noted we are already seeing changes in our extreme rainfall events in this region.
I am proud of our Community Development division’s effort to create tools that will help us at the Council, as well as cities and counties, prepare to be resilient to extreme weather. We began by assessing our own systems. We have identified bus routes prone to inland flooding and where severe weather affects our wastewater treatment infrastructure. Then we created strategies to continue operations in difficult circumstances. Staff will continue to evaluate impacts to our regional parks and trails and other Council facilities over the next several months.
Environmental Services staff have modeled where flooding is likeliest to occur outside of the river corridors and lakes. This type of overland flood modeling, through what is called a BlueSpot analysis, helps us to assess where our systems are likely to be inundated with water and determine the appropriate level of response to that flooding.
Later this year, staff will be releasing the BlueSpot analysis for use by local city planners, too. By making this resource available to cities and counties, they can use the tool to make decisions about their own local infrastructure, how to address current inland flooding issues, and where to guide future growth that might avoid areas at risk of these types of flooding events.
Council staff will be presenting the Climate Vulnerability Assessment tool at a future Committee of the Whole meeting. I’m eager to learn more about this resource and encourage anyone interested to attend.
No one can truly predict when and where extreme weather events will occur. But climate change is continuing to fuel shifts in weather: a record cold winter one year, followed by a record warm winter the following, stronger storms and heavier rainfall. These are the types of regional challenges where the Council can and should act as a resource for local communities, so we can efficiently coordinate how to meet these challenges moving forward.

Alene Tchourumoff

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Tags: climate, vulnerability