The importance of prioritizing sustainable practices and initiatives on a local level is becoming more and more apparent as once-in-a-century weather events, driven by climate change, impact our communities.
The supercell storm that blazed through North Riverside, Riverside and Brookfield in June was just one such storm in a summer full of them in other nearby places. Many areas untouched in June have since gotten creamed.
Just a couple of weeks ago while our area got some decent, but not too bad, rain, another supercell storm hit the North Side of Chicago, surcharging sewers to the point that they became geysers, inundating basements and making streets impassable.
Other parts of the country were also hit with devastating storms. Deadly flooding in eastern Kentucky in July displaced so many people and caused so much damage, officials were forced to delay the start of school. Jackson, Mississippi lost access to fresh water after severe flooding.
The Washington Post reported last month that there were five separate “1,000-year rain events” in Dallas, Kentucky, St. Louis, California and Illinois within the span of five weeks this summer.
In some of those areas, particularly in the western U.S., those rain events come following a prolonged period of drought, making their impact even more severe.
“Droughts can often make flooding worse,” the Washington Post’s Matthew Cappucci reported on Aug. 23. “They kill plants and leave the ground bare, reducing soil absorption. They also harden top soils, which makes it easier for water to run off. The extremely dry ground, combined with the rapid rainfall, can trigger widespread flooding.”
Such events come at an enormous cost. In Riverside, which is still totaling up the bills, the village has expended more than $680,000 related to the June 13 storm damage and expects to spend closer to $750,000 when it’s all said and done.
Thankfully, the village was able to convince the Illinois Risk Management Association, its insurance carrier, to accept that claim. But, we’re not sold on the idea that insurance companies or cooperatives are going to want to keep swallowing the cost of more frequent, more severe storms. IRMA reportedly didn’t want to honor this claim at first. And Riverside wasn’t the only western suburb to sustain heavy damage.
Both Riverside and Brookfield have joined the Cross-Community Climate Collaboration, also known as C4, which seeks to initiate policies and practices that reduce local greenhouse gas emissions to 0 percent by 2050.
Together with a dozen or so other west suburban communities, they’ll work toward finding sustainable solutions to address the undeniable impact of climate change. We hope that sense of urgency spreads, because the impacts are real, increasingly frequent and expensive.