Sandy triggers a look at disaster readinessby Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Hurricane Sandy brought a reminder of people's vulnerability to extreme weather. Community leaders around Minnesota and elsewhere are trying to figure out how to do more to prepare for such disasters.
"We're used to weather extremes in Minnesota, but the climate is changing," said Rick Larkin, St. Paul's director of emergency management. "As a result of those changes, people need to adapt."
Larkin said he worries most about the impact of long heat waves on vulnerable people.
He said it goes beyond trying to reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
"That's a worthy goal, but the fact is, it doesn't drive the temperature down at night during a heat wave," he said, "so adaptation or resilience would include actions like making sure our public housing is air conditioned or has cooling centers available nearby."
Larkin said that in addition to beefing up stormwater systems, cities are increasingly using innovative ideas like rain gardens, green roofs, and buildings that reflect heat in summer and absorb it in winter.
He also said roads, bridges and buildings should be constructed to withstand floods, heavy snow and extreme heat.
He called it resilience -- and said people are ready to act on the idea.
"Folks are seeing what's happening around them in the news, and locally with drought conditions," he said, "and I believe that folks are concerned."
Larkin says communities cannot necessarily afford to build for the worst-case scenario, but residents should talk honestly about the new climate realities and find agreement on how to respond.
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