By Nicole Hennessy
With sustained winds expected to reach 30 to 40 miles per hour and gusts as high as 60 miles per hour, the rain never stopped Sunday, continuing into Monday. Then windows began shaking and trees bent to the breaking point or were ripped out of the ground, left to lie sideways, mangled roots reaching upward. By that time, at least 250,000 Ohioans, most of whom were located in the Greater Cleveland area, had lost power.
Schools and offices closed, cars parked on streets were smashed, roofs fell off shingle by shingle, roads, impassable, got blocked off and drivers forgot to obey four-way stops.
In Lakewood, one of the hardest hit Westshore communities, along with Bay Village, some streets had power only on one side of the train tracks slicing the streets between Clifton and Detroit. In Fairview, that line was Lorain Road, as many of the homes on the south side of it did not have power.
In Northeast Ohio, most of the weather moves in from the west. That’s why it’s odd for Hurricane Sandy to have entered the area from the east.
And, as always, when irregularities occur in weather patterns, the subject of climate change inevitably comes up.
Climates are changing
For some, global warming has become a modern-day insistence that the earth is round. For others it’s an imagined threat in direct conflict with partisan political theory. That’s why, for many, the phrase has gained a negative connotation. So often the phrase “climate change” is used instead. The difference is that global warming is a term used to describe the effect by which greenhouse gases, such as carbon monoxide, water vapor and methane, build up in the atmosphere, trapping larger amounts of the sun’s energy, which causes the Earth to heat up. Despite extensive research on the subject, many people still insist this theory is scientific speculation.
There are negatives to diverting to the friendlier-sounding phrase climate change. Remember, climate describes local weather patterns. Rather than just temperature, the word climate refers to factors like cloud cover, humidity and precipitation. Planetwide warming contributes to all of these things.
There is no arguing that climates are changing. It is no longer deniable, but the debate now is whether or not the cause is natural or man-made. Even academics and scientists argue for and against both.
For those in the middle, the contention seems to be that we know emissions, commonly understood to be pollution, are harmful to the environment, so whether or not climates are being changed by smog-infested overdeveloping nations like China and India, as well as the rest of the world, or as a result of the Earth’s natural weather cycle, is beside the point. The point is, the least observable effect of global warming is actual warmth. Instead it is climate − melting ancient glaciers and ice caps, higher sea levels and larger storms.
Still without power
By Friday afternoon, FirstEnergy reported that 17,215 Westshore customers remained without power, not including Olmsted Township, many of whom expected to stay that way until well into Monday night.
Emergency shelters were set up in Rocky River and Lakewood, providing people with hot meals, showers and warm beds. Similarly, people sought refuge in public buildings, such as libraries, where they checked e-mails, took advantage of cafes or just soaked up some electricity, charging dead cellphones.
In the wake of increasingly intense hurricanes and other natural disasters that batter coastal states, Northeast Ohio is increasingly regarded as a safe place to live. And for the most part it is. But for many residents, this storm served as a wake-up call in terms of the lack of preparedness they’ve never really had to put much thought into.
For example, helpful emergency kits should include one gallon of water per person per day, nonperishable food items and a can opener, batteries, flashlights, battery-powered radios, a spare set of car keys and a phone charger for use in cars. It may also be helpful to have a full gas can handy. For more ambitious homeowners, alternative power is an option, too. If a home in an afflicted area had solar panels, the electricity would not be affected. And for homeowners who install renewable energy equipment, such as solar electric systems, solar hot water heaters, geothermal heat pumps or wind turbines, there are state and federal tax incentives available.
For now, residents can prepare, after this intense end of fall, for what could possibly be another mild winter.
For more information on climate change (man-made or otherwise) and energy efficiency, here are some helpful documents and websites:
- On federal and state tax incentives: http://www.dsireusa.org/incentives/index.cfm?state=OH&re=0&ee=0&spv=0&st=0&srp=1
- On adapting to climate change: http://ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/
- On simple ways to make homes energy efficient: http://www.gcbl.org/live/home/efficiency