Not too long ago, where you lived reliably dictated when and what type of weather conditions you should be aware of and prepared for.
If you lived in the Midwest, from late spring into the early summer months, you could expect severe thunderstorms to roll in from the west, bringing lightning, rain, and too often, tornadoes. Chances are good that as a kid you were taught the difference between a tornado watch and warning and knew where to take cover.
Along the Eastern Seaboard, citizens are highly prepared and educated about the dangers of the Atlantic hurricane season that lasts (officially) from June through November. After a record-breaking 2020 hurricane season that started in May and ramped up quickly, predictions are for a very active 2021 season, potentially seeing more than 20 named storms.
But these weather patterns are shifting, intensifying, and becoming increasingly more unpredictable than they were in the past.
In February devastating back-to-back snow and ice storms crippled a large swath of America, greatly impacting the south including the state of Texas. Between February 10-20, more than 150 people died in these storms, including two dozen who were killed from fire and carbon monoxide poisoning while seeking ways to stay warm when power was knocked out.
In addition to the loss of life, the impact on society and government took quite a toll. Cities and communities across the south were seriously challenged to provide social services that would protect their homeless and other at-risk populations from the icy cold conditions.
A Challenge to Energy Independence
Delaware Senator Tom Carper, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, recently met with President Joe Biden at the White House and spoke about how critically important it is for our federal and state governments to think proactively about the increased impact that unpredictable weather will have on our society.
These events are “a reminder that our nation’s critical infrastructure is vulnerable to extreme weather events and we can no longer turn a blind eye to the resiliency investments needed to protect it,” Carper said. “The cost associated with addressing climate change and improving our infrastructure’s resilience is always going to be less than the cost of rebuilding or failing to act.″
The situation in Texas and across the south also showed that no matter what type of energy was being used, it got disrupted. At one point on February 17, nearly every state in the South and Southeast had a moderate to major chance of severe storm impact, threatening their ability to keep the power on and running. That is a swath of American real estate with a population of more than 100 million people.
As they emerged from a historic storm that wreaked havoc on all aspects of life, many homeowners began to believe that they needed to empower and equip themselves to counter unpredictability in the power grids they have relied on in the past. By taking matters into their own hands, they want to ensure that they don’t lose power, whether it’s a powerful summer thunderstorm, a winter ice storm, or a non-weather-related incident. For many people, it’s not just a matter of being temporarily disrupted and inconvenienced. Power interruptions threaten important health, safety, and productivity assets. that keep us alive and healthy, breathing clean air, and ensuring medical equipment is always powered on.
The Need for Better Planning
While much of the visibility in 2021 to date has been on strong winter storms, including Denver’s fourth-largest snowfall in recorded history, our aging power grid infrastructure is even more vulnerable during the summer season when intense heat, drought conditions, wildfires, and severe summer storms cause power systems to run at peak levels and cause outages.
Protecting against a series of adverse weather events quickly becomes a question of: How do you plan and prepare for increasingly abnormal weather?
In the face of increasing data on climate change, the art of forecasting presents new challenges with bigger, stronger, and more unpredictable weather impacts across the globe. Improved planning will not only help residents prepare for weather events; it can also drive us to design and implement better power supply systems. To that end, the Biden administration has pledged $2 trillion to infrastructure and clean energy improvements.
These concerns are encouraging residents and homeowners to think about how these weather events will impact their livelihood, and their ability to tap into the power they need when the infrastructure is overtaxed. As cities, governments, and scientists continue to look to new and more powerful ways to keep us plugged in and to predict the weather, homeowners are exploring ways to take power into their own hands.