Commentary, Opinion

Storms show the need for fast action on climate change

By Reps. Michelle Bos-Lun, Westminster, and Mike Mrowicki, Putney

Climate change and its resulting weather variations are contributing to floods and massive roadway erosion in some parts of Vermont and floods and droughts in other areas this month.

A large section of northern Vermont experienced abnormally dry conditions in July, but southern Vermont endured two major storms July 17 and July 30 that caused significant harm. Three cars landed in riverbeds in the two storms: one in Brattleboro, where a bridge washed out and the driver escaped moments before the car went down; and two cars in Westminster went over the edge of dirt roads that collapsed, taking vehicles and drivers into the roaring water.

Culverts were washed out (including one below the railway tracks in Dummerston days before the scheduled resumption of passenger train service to Vermont).

Climate change is dangerous, for our planet and our people.

On Aug. 2, Gov. Scott, along with the two of us who represent Westminster, Dummerston and Putney, and Windham County Sen. Becca Balint, and Vermont Emergency Management director Erica Bornemann toured locations of ravaged areas in our county.

Bornemann and Town Manager Russ Hodgkins from Westminster gave a tour of damages. Bornemann has requested a preliminary damage assessment to determine if Vermont can qualify for a federal disaster declaration, which would make it possible to access Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] funds to help the massive cost of repairs to our communities.

An early estimate of the damage just from the second storm is $4.6 million for Windham and Bennington counties. Hodgkins said the damage just to Westminster roadways is likely to be $500,000 to $600,000, which far exceeds the town’s aptly named “Rainy Day Fund” reserve of $150,000.

Other concerns related to storm damage have come to us from constituents who had difficulties with calling the 211 system. We are looking into that, so please stay tuned.

Reports of agricultural damage related to the storms have also come to our attention. If you have incurred damage, please get in touch with your representative.

We urge all residents of Vermont to contact your senators and representatives and let them know that climate issues need to be a priority. As legislators and individuals living in Vermont , we all need to do our part to address climate change. Our collective efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are essential. Greta Thunberg told us, “Our house is on fire.” We can’t wait to put out this fire; the walls are starting to come down. We need to do more and do more quickly.

On our visit to Westminster, Gov. Scott stated, “Climate change is real. These [powerful storms] are going to continue to happen.” Let’s all do what we can to mitigate these devastating consequences of climate change.

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