Thursday, January 10, 2013

What does resiliency mean in recovering from Hurricane Sandy?

Governor Cuomo has been setting up commissions to plan rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.

Can we count on institutions like National Grid or Con Edison to suggest resiliency improvements that might put a dent in their business? It might be up to the rest of us to point out some options, instead.

Can we brainstorm before the next super storm?

We can't expect a power utility to suggest building well-insulated replacement structures that use a small fraction of the energy of the ones that were lost. Combine insulation with water cisterns and ultra-low-flow toilets, and such a building is minimally habitable for more days in a power outage, as long as there aren't too many stairs to climb.

But why put it in the path of a storm anyway? Oh, we don't know the path of the next one!
Storms can come further inland, like the proverbial gorilla joke;  What does a gorilla do in the living room? Answer, Anything he wants to.

Solar and wind-supported energy would be handy for cell phone towers, which usually rely on the grid with generator back up. Keeping them going for weeks while the old grid is drying out is important for emergency services and locating storm refugees.

Nobody who paid millions for property in lower Manhattan or a substantial amount for a home in Far Rockaway is likely to just walk away from investment. Who's to tell people just don't build so close to the coast again, even if the design is made of concrete and elevated? It might be brilliant if instead oceanfront property was more like the old temporary indigenous structures, cheap to replace, and accepting of the ways of the ocean.

If the resiliency components cut down on fossil fuel dependency, like the insulated building could do, that would be a two-fer.

I have a feeling I haven't pushed far enough to re-imagine a reasonable post-Sandy downstate. The fact that New Orleans made it through Hurricane Isaac, with higher levees than it had for Katrina, doesn't seem like enough of long-term answer.

As an insuror has been quoted in a piece by Mindy Lubber, reprinted at Climate Progress:
“We need to figure out how to close this climate resiliency gap,” Zurich Financial Services’s Lindene Patton said, referring to outdated infrastructure ill equipped for higher sea levels and bigger storm surges. “What we have today is a series of physical assets which are becoming less and less appropriate given the changing weather patterns that we face. You don’t want to assume something’s going to last 30 years only to have it blown away in 10.”

I'd like to see more discussion of resiliency proposals.

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