This past week, it was Hurricane Barry dumping tropical moisture across the southern states with more flooding and destruction. Ahead of the storm, the city of New Orleans received 6 to 8 inches of rain a week before Barry, so streams were already full. Fortunately, Barry obliged the city of New Orleans and dumped most of the rain east of the city, thus avoiding a major catastrophe. Two weeks ago, tropical moisture invaded a thunderstorm complex in the Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia and caused extensive flash flooding as 4 to 8 inches of rain fell in just a few hours. Water even got into the basement of the White House although it was not enough to bring any political change to the climate debate.
Back home in Southwestern Pennsylvania, flash flooding sent water cascading down hillsides as 2-4 inches of rain fell in less than an hour last Thursday doing a lot of property damage and stranding motorists. I got stuck on Route 51 traveling to Pittsburgh. The normal trip of just over an hour took almost three hours as water flooded the roadway and debris had to be cleaned up after the waters receded. With a warmer planet, there is more heat in the atmosphere and this produces more energy which in turn makes for more intense storms as well as more frequent storms. We are on track for another wet year as rainfall so far is ahead of last year and you may recall 2018 was the wettest ever recorded in Southwestern Pennsylvania averaging some 14 to 17 inches above normal.
An interesting article in the June 24 issue of the Bloomberg News reported on a new major office and condo project being developed on the Boston Harbor waterfront called the” Innovation District” which will house Amazon.com, General Electric and Fidelity Investments. Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company has just announced a $240,000,000 structure to house 1,000 of its employees. No American city has such a large swath of expensive new ocean front real estate and infrastructure exposed to the worst that Mother Nature has to offer. Boston harbor floods frequently, and last year during a storm, a record high tide trapped motorists, closed the subway and proved that dumpsters can float.
The area under development is a man-made peninsula that was born some two hundred years ago when workers started filling the tidal flats with rock, dirt and trash. Developers are confident and are taking extra means such as elevating the ground floor and putting electrical and other utilities and equipment on higher floors. Boston is planning a series of sea walls, berms and other structure to keep Mother Nature out. It’s good to see change staring to take place in how some of our future buildings are being constructed with climate change a part of the equation. Let’s hope it works. Mother Nature likes a challenge and frequently she she is up for it.