The United States’ east coast blizzard made worldwide headlines that focused on everything from airport closures to stranded cars. 26.8 inches of snow in New York City set a record for the largest snowfall in a single day since records have been kept since 1869.
A state of emergency was declared in 11 states as services ground to a halt under the blizzard’s impact and, although the snow may have stopped falling, the full impact of this storm is yet to be felt.
The insurance industry has predicted a multi-billion dollar economic loss, as the affected areas are dealing with loss of power, limited public transport services, blocked road networks and coastal flooding in low-lying geographic regions.
Yet, New York City has come out much less scathed in comparison to other Eastern Seaboard cities. The reason for this is in part due to their city planning, which took city resiliency into account during their infrastructure development and proactive emergency management. City resiliency planning is the act of gaining understanding of how critical assets can be impacted by events such as blizzards, coastal flooding and establishing new protocols for resilience. These new procedures are then implemented in proactive planning, improved emergency response and city infrastructure projects to improve city resilience such as timely communications, more accurate weather forecasts, proactive road treatment in advance of storms and improved snow removal plans - an improvement from previous blizzards in the city.
To enable city resilience, cities seek collaboration between engineers and scientists, so that developers and city managers can better understand weather patterns and properly leverage weather data to identify vulnerabilities. However, this also requires backing from local governing bodies, which may not always be on the same page. New York’s experience shows that this hurdle can be overcome with the help from Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) – a cross-silo, cross-sector leader that drives integrated city resiliency planning – as they understand and can operate effectively and collaboratively between governmental and infrastructure needs.
Organizations like 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) play a key role in helping urban communities use experiences gained by cities in other parts of the world, planning and learning from their proactive initiatives.
While we can’t control the world’s unpredictable weather, with the help of city resiliency planning we can improve how cities plan and respond to extreme weather shocks.