Once is chance, twice is coincidence, third time is because it’s getting warmer.

The past two Halloweens have brought quite a trick to New England. Last year at this time, a Nor’Easter came around and left a path of damage from snow, flooding and power outages. This October, “Superstorm Sandy” left a similar trail of damage, with a huge economic cost as millions of people across the Eastern seaboard lost power, property, and productivity.

Third time’s the charm?

Some will see these events as coincidence, but we shouldn’t have to wait for the next big storm to accept these events as a pattern resulting from changes to our region’s climate. According to a  number of reports, we are in the process of seeing weather events that depart from our past experiences of the past century or more. More extreme weather events are happening more often: rain events, heat waves, drought.

A warmer atmosphere can absorb and hold more water, and our continued green house gas emissions are effectively creating a bigger and better “sponge”. How will we prepare for and respond the next time it gets squeezed?

A regional approach

Mother Nature doesn’t recognize the separation of towns and cities–therefore, the most effective preparation calls for cooperation across the borders within our region. At MAPC, we’ve been conducting conversations with local officials, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and citizens to help prepare cities and towns reduce their vulnerability to natural hazards. These mitigation plans identify actions that municipalities can take now to reduce the impact of natural hazards, such as protecting wetlands and forests as natural buffers, improving drainage infrastructure, and coordinating the action plans of emergency responders.

Looking to potential future threats, we’re developing a regional climate change adaptation strategy with support from the Obama administration. The strategy will assess vulnerabilities throughout Greater Boston and will identify actions that state and local officials, institutions, businesses, and households can take to increase our resiliency in the face of increasingly frequent and severe storms.

New York and New Jersey learned some lessons last week the hard way…we can avoid doing the same with some foresight, region-wide planning, and cooperation.

Barry Keppard, MAPC Regional Planner & Martin Pillsbury,  Environmental Planning Director