Hampton Roads localities regularly face significant economic and social risks from extreme weather events including heat waves, drought, tropical storms, high winds, storm surges, and heavy downpours. In many places, these risks are projected to increase substantially due to climate change, sea level rise, and increased development in coastal areas and other vulnerable locations. Hurricanes Isabel and Sandy, recent western droughts, and longer wildfire seasons illustrate the rise in natural disasters and the grave consequences of such events. In spite of advances in disaster preparedness, extreme weather is now affecting the safety, health, and economies of entire regions. American communities cannot effectively reduce their risks and vulnerabilities without considering future extreme events and the effects of climate change in their everyday planning and decision-making. To assist in this effort, the National Disaster Resilience Competition (NDRC) will make nearly $1 billion available to communities that have been impacted by natural disasters in recent years.
The competition will encourage communities to not only consider how they can recover from a past disaster, but also how to avoid future disaster losses. In Hampton Roads, we are reaching out to communities through a variety of processes to help identify needs in the region. Our regional strategic planning initiative, ENVISION Hampton Roads, engages a myriad of citizen groups, professional organizations, service clubs, churches and special interests. With the help of these engaged residents, the HRPDC will continue to develop strategic initiatives that can be applied region-wide to address resiliency issues unique to Hampton Roads.
Another way we address resiliency is through our regional efforts in environmental education, askHRgreen.org. This model of regional cooperation utilizes economies of scale to develop and disseminate important environmental messages to area residents. With emphasis on water, stormwater, waste water and recycling these important issues form the cornerstones of a resilient region.
While the HRPDC hopes to coordinate more of the “soft” process types of projects, several localities will be developing “hard” or constructed types of projects to address specific resilience issues, such as recurrent flooding. Together, this collaborative and comprehensive suite of efforts should put us in the running to bring significant financial resources to the region.