National Academies Press: OpenBook

Transportation Resilience: Adaptation to Climate Change (2016)

Chapter: Presentation of Second Case Scenario:River and Storm Flooding

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Suggested Citation:"Presentation of Second Case Scenario:River and Storm Flooding." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Transportation Resilience: Adaptation to Climate Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24648.
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19 SESSION 2 Minimizing Disruption During Extreme Events Jennifer Jacobs, University of New Hampshire, Durham, USA André van Lammeren, Rijkswaterstaat, Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, Netherlands Alan O’Connor, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland Alan McKinnon, Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg, Germany Sam Merrill, GEI Consultants, Washington, D.C., USA Gordana Petkovic, Norwegian Public Roads Administration, Oslo, Norway Presentation of seCond Case sCenario: river and storm flooding Jennifer Jacobs and André van Lammeren Jennifer Jacobs discussed the second scenario, which focuses on minimizing the disruption to the transport system during extreme weather events. The scenario addresses abnormal precipitation and flooding. Jacobs described the key elements of the scenario, which high- light the vulnerability of the transport system during a recent series of devastating floods in the United States and Europe. Appendix C contains more information on this scenario. Jacobs noted that one issue with extreme events is that by definition, extreme events occur rarely, which makes data sets small and sparse. As a result, extreme weather events are hard to measure. In addition, instrumenta- tion may not work during floods, tornadoes, and other extreme weather events. Further, she noted that the pro- cesses that generate extreme weather are highly complex and difficult to model. Jacobs described some recent extreme weather events, including hurricanes, heat waves, snow and ice storms, and floods, and their impacts on the transportation sys- tem. Flooded roadways, buckled rails, and overheated runway pavement represent a few of the transportation problems she highlighted. In addition, climate change can lead to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration, and timing of extreme weather events. For example, an increase in intense precipitation events may result in increased flooding of roadways and sub- terranean tunnels and overloading of drainage systems. It may also cause more road washouts and standing water on the road base, which affect soil moisture lev- els and the structural integrity of roads, bridges, and tunnels. Jacobs described the scenario, which was based on U.S. flood experiences in Vermont (2013), Colorado (2014), and South Carolina (2016). All three states experienced heavy rains and resulting flooding. In this hypothetical scenario, 500 miles (805 kilometers) of state highways are closed, over 100 state bridges are closed, 30 railroad bridges are damaged, and 200 miles (322 kilometers) of rail lines are impassable. More than 200 (approxi- mately 90%) of the hypothetical state’s towns have to rebuild damaged roads, bridges, and culverts. The storm damages thousands of town culverts and damages or destroys nearly 300 town bridges. She reported that in this scenario the entire state is at a standstill, with dozens of towns entirely cut off, with no way in or out. Jacobs discussed some of the issues raised in the scenario before, during, and after the event. She noted that the hypothetical state transportation agency (STA) expected impacts across a large part of the state and pre- pared equipment and resources to respond. Large rainfall events in mountainous regions can confound prepared- ness efforts, however, because predicting which side of a mountain expected rainfall will flow over is difficult. Even with the preparation, the actual event is at a scale never experienced, expected, or planned for at the STA. She noted that staff resources are too few and too scat-

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Transportation Resilience: Adaptation to Climate Change and Extreme Weather Events summarizes a symposium held June 16–17, 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. The fourth annual symposium promotes common understanding, efficiencies, and trans-Atlantic cooperation within the international transportation research community while accelerating transport-sector innovation in the European Union (EU) and the United States.

The two-day, invitation-only symposium brought together high-level experts to share their views on disruptions to the transportation system resulting from climate change and extreme weather events. With the goal of fostering trans-Atlantic collaboration in research and deployment, symposium participants discussed the technical, financial, and policy challenges to better plan, design, and operate the transportation network before, during, and after extreme and/or long-term climate events.


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