Summertime arrives in the Carolinas at the snap of our fingers. Seems that way sometimes. Our feature image reflects that feeling. It is the sun rising over cedars and sweet gums to warm South Charlotte.
Summer 2020 will start unlike any before for various reasons. A six-month mark in a pandemic. Above average hurricane season expected. Hot temperatures in most of the nation (and ocean). Once again we will set peak electric demands as we run the AC. Business doesn’t look hot at all, especially where tourists should be. And then, look at “insta-storm” Bertha that formed and moved onshore so fast. It’s a quick start to the storm season.
Sorry to be so negative. To channel FDR when weather, power, and the economy were challenged, “It really bites.”
With the idea that knowledge is power, let’s forge ahead. Some things just are, and it is best to know what’s happening.
ECC checked the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) about the summer temperature forecast. Here’s its map for temps June – August.
Electric meters will be spinning in the Southeast. “Get ready to crank up the air conditioning! North Carolina is in for a hot summer,” said Lee Ringer, Spectrum News RDU weathercaster.
This is at a time when electric companies gave a lot of leeway to customers in paying bills. That cannot continue for the long term, though.
As summer takes hold here’s something within our power, though: Pay attention to older or at-risk people who might not turn up AC or go to a cooling center. Make sure they have someone checking on them.
Pandemic and storms … nature asserting itself. There’s more to it. A Charleston Post & Courier story really struck me. RISING WATERS: Forget about climate change. The real story is climate speed, is a special report from May 20. The reporter is Tony Bartelme.
Exceptional reporting. Important story. Turn off email, turn down your phone, check it out. There’s a lot to learn from this story. One particular fact sold me on the reporting, though. This will seem odd, so work with me.
A close friend of mine is a geologist who worked with a major oil company. We both worked there. His specialty, the Arctic. He once described to me how the landmass of Greenland rose as its ice melted. Reduced weight of the ice allowed the land to go up.
Bartelme reported a similar fact: “When the last ice age ended 20,000 years ago, sheets of ice melted in what today is New England. Freed from the weight, land there moved upward while land to the south, including South Carolina, sank like the lower end of a seesaw.”
How does this relate to the Southeast? “Scientists have good data on this. They’ve been measuring the sea level in Charleston Harbor continuously since 1921. Since then, the sea level here rose about 1 foot.”
My geologist friend adds, “It’s hard to separate land subsidence from sea level rise, but they both result in loss of livable land. Erosion of the Appalachian Mountains dumped a lot of sediment on the SC coastal plain, weighting it down.” End of the seesaw.
Putting all this together makes the environmental challenges even more formidable. More flooding.
In Charleston there’s an effort to address flooding. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is studying “coastal storm impacts on the Charleston Peninsula and, in partnership with the City of Charleston and its stakeholders, develop an economically-viable, environmentally-sound solution that effectively mitigates long-term storm risks.” The Corps wants input, too. Go to its website here.
Here’s another headline: Rising tide: Clemson scientists seek solutions to state’s mounting nuisance floods. Daniel Hitchcock at Clemson’s Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science, says. “These flood events are more routine than our unprecedented tropical events over the past few years.”
The goal of the research is to “evaluate cost-effective infrastructure interventions for mitigating flood risks in coastal locales.” Green interventions is the term they use, “like natural land conservation and restoration of coastal wetlands, oyster reefs and beach dunes.” Several states have teams working on recommendations.
Big cities may get more press, though less populated coastal areas also have issues. Smaller staffs, fewer resources, and being newer to the issues around resilience play a part in that challenge. Check this Raleigh News and Observer story for details.
What was once an unusual onslaught of water will be normal. In a story about a Norfolk, VA, coastal neighborhood, “Hurricanes get the headlines, but on this street, it will be the repeated jabs of flooding day after day from climate change, with its rising tides and increasingly stronger storms, that will force the city to make tough choices. By 2040 … the river will overflow its banks and flood this street twice daily during high tides.”
The news story says, “This is where Norfolk will eventually begin its retreat.”
Let’s bring this all back around to a real paradox. A pandemic and tropical storms. What if they coincide? Social distancing for health and evacuation to a shelter for safety. And, home may have no power and a shelter might.
A New York Times Florida-based reporter assessed that issue. A mild storm, newer house, and not a flood-prone area, maybe no huge problem. “But experts always prepare for the worst case: a behemoth storm riding up the entirety of the peninsula, or hitting a big city like Miami or Tampa directly. During Irma, which made landfall in the Florida Keys and moved north, some 350,000 people sought refuge in shelters.”
Even though it is Florida being discussed this could be any Southeast state issue.
“In new storm guidelines, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended small shelters of fewer than 50 people. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency [left] acknowledged that big shelters ‘will still be necessary,’” says the New York Times story.
Another report picks out North Carolina. “The need to provide extra personal space is straining coastal communities such as Brunswick County, N.C., that have no choice but to set up shelters because all of the local hotels are in an evacuation zone,” reports E&E News. “A shelter in one of the county’s three high schools that ordinarily holds 500 people would now accommodate only 100 to 200 evacuees, forcing the county to find additional shelter space … Brunswick County, with 143,000 people, is in North Carolina’s vulnerable southeast corner.” An emergency manager notes the concern “…that residents will ignore evacuation orders to avoid going to shelters. People are going to want to stay put, and that puts them in harm’s way.”
After this story in Energy Consumers of the Carolinas you might look back and think we did not mention megawatts, solar energy, or smart homes at all. What’s up?
How we make our power can contribute to the problems with climate and the sea. How your power company manages its reliability and resilience with electric power is directly tied to weather. How much power it has to make may relate directly to the climate. How well your power company thinks about these issues, plans effectively, and finances them will be increasingly important.
This is all bundled together.