Monday, November 16, 2015

Almost All Americans Live In Weather Disaster Zones, Many Don't Realize It

Environment America says almost everyone
in the nation lives in a county that's had
a weather disaster in the past five years. 
An outfit called Environment America recently came out with a nifty interactive map that indicates 96 percent of Americans live in a county that's been declared a disaster zone because of severe weather at least once in the past five years.

I know, I know. Many of you reading this don't feel like you're the victim of a disaster. That, of course is because disaster is capricious, causing devastating losses for one family, while the people who live next door are totally untouched.

Or, the disaster isn't particularly extreme for anybody in particular, but proves enormously expensive for local governments that have to clear and repair the roads, utilities that have to fix electrical lines and water mains and such.

A good for instance of the two points I've made is the county where I live, Franklin in northwestern Vermont. According to Environment America's map, Franklin County has suffered through 11 disasters in the past five years, definitely more than most places in the nation.

It's true that a few spots in my county suffered severe damage from river or Lake Champlain flooding, and from severe summer thunderstorms and a tornado. A few Franklin County residents have endured terrible financial strain due to property damage and hassles getting everything fixed.

But like most people in Franklin County, I've been mostly unscathed. One of the floods damaged my driveway and gardens, and it took quite a bit of work on my part to repair. (but not much financial pain) The other storms either caused very light damage on my property or none at all.

Environment America, a federation of state-based, citizen funded environmental advocacy groups,  is highlighting these disaster statistics to demonstrate that climate change is causing more and more extreme weather.

That assertion is true. Climate change is causing more extreme droughts, floods and storms, not to mention additional heat waves and other dramatic temperature swings.

Still, as cool as Environmental America's interactive disaster map is, I'd love to learn if disaster declarations have increased over the decades and by how much?

If the number of disaster declarations have indeed gone up, what proportion of that is due to more extreme weather, or the possibility more people live in areas prone to weather damage than in the past? Has the U.S. government is just more likely to issue disaster declaration when a bad storm, drought or flood hits?

Inquiring minds want to know.

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