After a hot, dry summer with wildfire smoke a new normal for Jefferson County, let’s consider climate change projections for our area that might affect the coming winter, and how we can prepare.
Projections from the Planning for Climate Change on the North Olympic Peninsula report (noprcd.org) include wetter winters and an increase in extreme rain events. We saw an example of that a few months ago: On Aug. 11, heavy showers resulted in local reports of nearly an inch or more of rain. Some storm drains overflowed, and I still can see the path the water took in my yard.
What can you do to prepare? Especially in the fall, it is important to make sure storm drains stay clear, so check the ones around your neighborhood and clear the nearby leaves. In your yard, consider reducing impervious surfaces such as concrete walks and asphalt driveways. There are paving stones and concrete now available that allow water to filter through.
Also, rain barrels can be a way to store the water, and then use it for outdoor watering. Or consider installing a rain garden to store and filter water. Finally, add compost and mulch to your planted areas. It reduces runoff significantly and keeps those important nutrients close to your plants’ root area.
Those who live near streams know that intense rains along with snow events can cause extreme flooding. Coastal areas also are at risk since winter also brings higher tides. Given that we have already had about a 6 inches of sea level rise in the last century in Port Townsend, a high tide with wind at the same time may cause flooding in areas not impacted previously. Jefferson County has great resources for reducing flood risk as well as for managing coastal erosion (see link below).
While fire danger should be low during the winter, climate projections indicate increased risk in the future, so it’s not a bad time to start preparing for next summer by reviewing the firewise.org resources on how you can minimize fire risk in your yard and house.
Projections for how average wind speeds will change with climate change currently are undetermined, but we know winter can bring stronger winds. Be prepared for power outages by having flashlights, non-perishable food, water and cooking options available.
Cindy Jayne leads the Local 20/20 Climate Preparedness action group, is active in a variety of other Local 20/20 groups, and was the project manager for the Planning for Climate Change on the North Olympic Peninsula project.