A University of Waterloo researcher says local home owners should start weather proofing their properties as extreme rain, wind and snow storms become the "new normal."
"We can't be treating these events as anomalies any more," said Jason Thistlethwaite, director of the university's Climate Change Adaptation Project, after a weather system buried Buffalo and western New York under more than 300 centimetres of snow.
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Thistlethwaite said that, as the earth's atmosphere warms up, it can hold more moisture, increasing the possibility and frequency of extreme weather.
"When the atmosphere is like that, it's effectively a little more supercharged," he said. "So, you're going to see more significant rain events."
Extreme weather comes at a cost
According to Thistlethwaite, those significant events will come at a cost to local municipalities that are responsible for maintaining roads and storm sewers.
"As infrastructure ages, the more extreme weather we get really does increase the chances that we're going to see property damage and higher costs," he said.
"The government with the greatest capacity to fund this is the federal government. They're the ones that have income tax sources.... but it's the municipalities that are the ones that are on the front lines and are disproportionately exposed to these kinds of impacts. So, they're really resource constrained."
Home owners should prepare for the worst
Municipalities aren't the only ones paying for extreme weather. Thistlethwaite says insurance providers are also footing the bill.
"Fire used to be the number one cost for property insurers," said Jason Thistlethwaite, director of the university's Climate Change Adaptation project. "Now, they're having to adjust to a whole new world where weather is by far the most significant cost."
To keep rates low, Thistlethwaite suggests homeowners weather proof their homes by keeping an eye on where water pools on their properties and making sure no paved surface abuts their homes' foundations.