11/13/2012 4:45:00 PM Let's prepare for New Normal
Catholic News Service
An aerial view shows destroyed homes Oct. 31 after Hurricane Sandy came ashore in Seaside Heights, N.J.
As we saw with Superstorm Sandy, catastrophic one hundred-year storms are occurring every two years these days. That is the new normal, influenced mightily by climate change.
The money and energy saved by not rebuilding right away could be put to better use in planning for a future with frequent extreme storms.
Brian Williams, the NBC television anchor, clearly was torn up as he saw the images of the Jersey Shore, destroyed by wind and water. He grew up there as a youngster and as recently as a week before Sandy hit, he spent a weekend with his wife and two daughters at the Shore.
He proposed a WPA-like rebuilding effort even as the saltwater was still flowing down ocean-fronting streets.
But a retired Duke University-coastal geologist argues that retreat from the shore is the only sensible option, rather than rebuild.
Hurricanes actually have become giant urban renewal projects, argues Orrin Pilkey. “The buildings come back bigger than before. It’s a form of societal madness.”
Rising sea levels, increased storm intensities, warmer ocean waters, overdevelopment on damaged sand dunes and landward-retreating shorelines combine to force this destruction to occur over and over.
Some of us here were out on the Salishan Spit nearly 40 years ago when great chunks of the sand dune disappeared overnight during a particularly violent storm.
One absentee beachfront owner lost 60 feet of his front yard to ocean waves and high tides.
It is way past time for a fresh look at the New Normal.