Imagine a 100-year planning horizon. This is not a far-fetched idea, according to Brian Colle, a professor of atmospheric science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
NEW YORK — Two days after Hurricane Sandy walloped the East Coast, electrical utility companies warned hundreds of thousands of customers from Long Island to New Jersey that they may be left in the dark for more than 10 days.
Critics said cost-cutting was holding back recovery efforts, and long-term planning around climate change and extreme weather is lacking. The the industry pointed to downed trees, knocked-out facilities and the devastating reach of the storm to explain the duration of outages.
“You cannot make infrastructure hurricane-proof. We had a nine-foot storm surge on top of high tide. You cannot protect your infrastructure against that sort of damage,” said Chris Eck, spokesman for Jersey Central Power & Light, which had 940,000 customers without power Wednesday.
But several utility and climate experts maintained that utilities, faulted in many places for their response to Hurricane Irene a year ago, should look further back in geological history, and further ahead toward the destabilizing effects of global warming, as they prepare for natural disaster.
In New York City, researchers warned in 2008 that the shoreline was highly vulnerable to a massive surge. Brian Colle, a professor of atmospheric science at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, said higher surges could have been foreseen by looking at geological history.
“If you’re planning for New York City to be around for more than 100 years — which I would hope so — then I think it’s prudent to have a flood mitigation plan or strategy that goes beyond 100 years,” Colle said.