Experts call flooding a climate 'wake-up' call

Climate, infrastructure and health experts this week urged local communities to begin preparing for climate disruption by investing in climate-resilient infrastructure. Climate disruption is leading to a greater number of severe weather events across Michigan and the nation including the extreme rainfall last week that resulted in historic flooding in Southeast Michigan.

"Climate change is not some distant problem for future generations to worry about-communities across the state are already seeing its impacts first hand," said Jeff Andresen, climatologist for the state of Michigan. "Extreme heat, heavy downpours and flooding are projected to become more frequent in the future and will affect infrastructure, health, agriculture, forestry, transportation, air and water quality, among others. Last week's devastating flooding across Southeast Michigan should be a wake-up call for all of us."

As climate change continues to cause new and more severe impacts in the state, Michigan will likely see a need for modern road, septic, wastewater, electric and health care systems, said Jim Nash, water resource commissioner for Oakland County.

"We're still picking up the pieces from last week's storm, but the fact is we're going to continue to see more frequent and severe extreme weather events," said Nash. "Business as usual just isn't going to cut it anymore. To protect our residents and communities, we must be proactive and make investments in climate-resilient infrastructure."

Last week's flood joins a growing list of extreme weather events that have hurt Michigan residents and communities in recent years. These events have caused:

- Devastation of specialty crops like tart cherries and grapes, and increased uncertainty for Michigan's $96 billion agriculture industry.

- Detrimental impacts on Michigan's $18 billion tourism industry which relies on cold, snowy winters and temperate summers to draw visitors from across the nation.

- More frequent Ozone Action days, highlighting an increased health risk for seniors and children.

Health experts also warned of new threats to Michigan families, and a need to reexamine emergency medical capacity in light of climate threats.

"With millions of gallons of sewage spewing into our lakes and rivers and hundreds of basements filling with water, extreme weather events caused by climate disruption have real health impacts Michiganders," said Kathleen Slonager, executive director of the Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America - Michigan Chapter. "Long after the water is drained from homes and businesses, mold can continue to be a significant problem-causing asthma flare ups and allergy attacks, especially among children and seniors."

Published: Fri, Aug 22, 2014