President Obama’s National Climate Assessment, released May 6, brought memories of August 2011’s great flood racing back to me. The report detailed climate change’s local effects across the U.S. It was the first federal report to conclude, with a high degree of certainty, that global warming not only will wreak havoc in the future, but is already doing so in the here and now.
Thank you, Mr. President. At long last you’re giving climate change its due.
I cannot forget Aug. 14, 2011. The storm seemingly came out of nowhere. Long Island was drenched by 12 inches of rain in less than 24 hours. Suddenly my backyard and parts of my front yard were covered by a half-foot of water, and I was racing to save my home. In speaking to lots of folks afterward, young and old, the refrain was one and the same: No one had ever seen such a storm on Long Island –– or anywhere else, for that matter.
Here’s what I wrote in a column after the tempest:
“So there I was, standing amid a torrential rain in a foot of water, stuffing a hastily made sandbag –– which was actually full of dirt –– into the crevices of my back door when lightning flashed and thunder rumbled across the steel-gray sky. Get the (insert expletive) inside! I thought.
“I trudged through six inches of water in the alley until I reached the driveway, which resembled a fast-moving river. From there I leapt through water pools on the front lawn and raced up the stoop, which looked like a waterfall. I was panting like a dog when I got inside my house, my old black work boots full of water.”
We survived this unnamed storm. Ditto for Tropical Storm Irene, which slammed into Long Island three weeks later. Ditto for Superstorm Sandy a little more than a year later.
We’re much worse for wear, however. Battling three enormous tempests in a year, each of which brought major flooding to low-lying areas, wore us out. Yes, as Elton John might sing, we’re still standing, but we’re considerably shakier than we once were.
The question is, will such soaking rain events become our norm in the future? In its report, the administration says they very likely could unless we can do something to stave off the worst effects of global warming.