Experts Sound Alarm About Sea Levels and Chronic Flooding at the Jersey Shore
Over the past few months, hurricanes that slammed parts of Texas, Florida and the Caribbean have killed hundreds of people and caused billions of dollars in damage.
New Jersey hasn't been hit by a hurricane or devastating storm since Superstorm Sandy almost five years ago, but no one know knows if the next big storm will arrive in two weeks or 20 years.
Even if we don't get hit by another hurricane for quite a while, we are already facing a variety of other weather related threats. And for that reason, a special Shore of the Future conference was held in Trenton on Tuesday.
Various experts from across the nation gathered to discuss how to deal with and plan for increasing risk from sea level rise, strengthening coastal storms and flood hazards affecting the Garden State.
According to Jeanne Herb, associate director of environmental analysis and communications group for the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance at the Edward Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, over the next 15 years or so we can expect to see almost a foot of sea level rise along the Jersey coast.
“What the science is telling us is that the intensity of coastal storms is expected to increase as well," she said.
Herb said the result will be additional storm surge.
More and more houses down the shore are being elevated, and as a result we’re seeing a false sense of security starting to develop, which she says is troubling.
“It doesn’t mean that your community is resilient, it doesn’t mean you will have access to your prescription medications, or that you’ll have the ability to get on a road and get out if you need to, or that your utilities will be safe.”
She said we must address how to make an entire community more resilient, not just private homes.
“Whether that’s incorporating that into how we plan for water supply, or how we invest our dollars in public infrastructure,” she said
“Certainly not building or redeveloping in certain places is one possibility, but also looking at building structures that are more resilient, restoring our wetlands and marshes.”
She said doing this will help to absorb flood waters, and make communities that are right along the shore safer.
Shana Udvardy, the climate preparedness specialist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, says recent analysis of sea level rise suggests 21 communities including Seaside Park and other densely populated neighborhoods will have chronic flooding inundation problems every couple of weeks by 2035.
She said recent studies show that by the year 2100, about 100 communities in New Jersey will face this kind of chronic flooding.
“New Jersey is on the front line of sea level rise. It’s just second to Louisiana as far as the challenge it faces into the future,” she said.
Udvardy says that in order to address the problem, we need to start thinking about “how to reduce climate emissions, global warming emissions, these heat trapping emissions.”
“By curtailing future warming and sea level rise, we could spare 28 or more New Jersey communities from chronic inundation by 2060.”