Friday, August 29, 2014

A billion dollar trash day

This morning, Julie Bass asked Oak Park is Rotting- Do You Think Anyone Will Plant Gardens?  She recounted her husband's visit to Oak Park (Julie and her family now live in Seattle) where he saw mountains of trash sitting on the curb after the flood.  I read that right after I hauled out the trash for what is supposed to be the first normal day of trash collecting after the flood two weeks ago.  Both of those reminded me that I had remarked on the aftermath of the flood in Heading Toward The Sidewalk at The Archdruid Report last week.
[W]hen I read the title, I thought of all of the ruined personal belongings headed to the curb and then the dump this week and last because of Detroit's latest experience with climate weirding, the record one-day rainfall that flooded out much of the metro area and made national headlines.  The mayor of Warren, Detroit's largest suburb, claimed that the city's residents had lost more than one billion dollars (Dr. Evil impression optional) in ruined personal property because of the backed up sewage.  I was lucky to have only experienced inconvenience, a tripling of my commute home to avoid the flooding and a delay of five days in my trash being picked up.  The image of ruined investors and brokers jumping out of windows didn't even occur to me until the end of the essay.  Oops!
That billion dollar figure came from the following WXYZ report: Damage estimate in Warren tops more than $1 billion.

I have an answer for the man asking what has changed over the past four years--the climate.  As I wrote in This was my drive home tonight:
I talked about climate change in both my lectures today, and pointed out how it's expressing itself as increased precipitation, including 2013 being the wettest year in Michigan history, 2013-2014 being the snowiest year in Detroit's history, or 2011 being the rainiest year in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Toledo.
In addition, this month's flood resulted from the second highest single-day rainfall in Detroit history.  Welcome to four precipitation records in four years.

The WXYZ video was from two weeks ago.  Follow over the jump for updates on the total losses from MLive.

As for that billion dollar figure, I suspected it was an exaggeration and hinted to my students as much yesterday for the first day of the Fall semester and it turns out I was right, as MLive reported yesterday Total flood damage in Warren alone estimated at $231 million.
Flooding that followed extraordinary rainfall Aug. 11 caused more than $231 million in property damage at 22,782 affected homes and buildings, according to the mayor's office.

Overtime pay for city employees in the flood's aftermath cost the city $157,566, according to Warren Mary Jim Fouts.

Warren was one of the hardest hit communities in widespread flooding that came after more than 6 inches of rain fell in some parts of Metro Detroit.
It may not be one billion dollars, but it's still an impressive amount.

MLive also reported a preliminary figure for Oakland County: Oakland County estimates at least $337 million in flood damage.
PONTIAC, MI -- Widespread flooding did at least $337 million in property damage this week in Oakland County, officials estimated Monday.

The number could grow as more damage assessments are processed, said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson in a statement.
Gov. Rick Snyder issued a disaster declaration for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties on Wednesday, clearing the way for additional state resources and requests for federal aid.
So one billion dollars for Warren alone was too high, but a billion dollars over all three counties is not out of the question.  Welcome to weather weirding from the 400 ppm world.

As for solutions, Julie wondered if people would plant more gardens to replace the lawns that have been ruined by sewage-soaked junk sitting on them for weeks.  I don't think that's the solution, but the flood did prompt a call for a more sustainable Detroit: After the flood: Expanded green infrastructure could help absorb rain, planners say.
There isn't much that could have prevented flooding this week after extraordinary rainfall that poured more than 6 inches of water over some parts of Metro Detroit on Monday.

But advocates for investment in green infrastructure believe an improved system of trees, gardens and ponds built to retain rainwater may have made a difference.
Detroit Future City, an elaborate, 50-year urban planning framework unveiled last year and launched into implementation this year, includes multiple green storm water retention projects meant to relieve city systems while beautifying the city.

"What we advocate in the plan is a very cost-effective way to manage rain water," said Dorle, convener for the city systems working group of Detroit Future City's implementation office.
Now, that might work.

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