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SUMMARY RESPONSE TO EXTREME WEATHER IMPACTS ON TRANSPORTATION SYSTEMS Extreme weather tests the people and infrastructure that make up our transportation sys- tem. From maintenance crews rendering roads passable to planners assessing investments for that same stretch of highway, state departments of transportation are on the front lines in addressing impacts from the floods, hurricanes, and other weather events that are pro- jected to increase in frequency, severity, and unpredictability in the future. Eight cases involving diverse weather events depict the broad and evolving nature of this challenge and identify many effective practices for addressing it. Often these weather events were on a scale well beyond the prior scope of experience, making strong commu- nication and increased coordination with federal agencies and other resources, including in-house partners, critical. Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey (2012): The storm visited the Jersey Shore for less than a day but sent ocean water well inland, killing many people. The destruction of roads, bridges, and other transportation infrastructure totals $2.9 billion. River flooding in Iowa (2011): To avoid risks to population centers, authorities released spring melt and recent rains collected at flood control dams into the river system near rural areas, causing more than $50 million in damage to bridges and roads and inundating an interstate for more than three months. Intense rains, floods, and tornadoes in Tennessee (2010): Two days of intense rain caused a once-in-a-thousand-years flood in central and western Tennessee, submerging an interstate and killing several people. The cost for transportation impacts was $45 million. Intense rains and floods in Washington state (2007): Snowmelt, rains, and a Pacific wind storm led to widespread flooding, including in the Chehalis River basin, putting a segment of the main interstate between Portland and Seattle under 10 feet of water. The shutdown of that lifeline lasted about 4 days, resulting in $47 million in lost economic output. Statewide transportation damages totaled $23 million for state and interstate high- ways, and $39 million for city and county roads. Tropical Storm Irene in Vermont (2011): Tropical Storm Irene hit Vermont at a time when its ground was already saturated with rain, leading to record flooding. The 2 to 3 days of flash flooding damaged 500 miles of highway and 200 bridges, and left 11 com- munities stranded. Recovery of the transportation system is expected to cost between $175 and $200 million. Severe snowstorms in Alaska (2011â2012): An unusual cycle of heavy snow and rain led to 18 feet of snow in the marine town of Cordova, Alaska. The cost to the state and the municipality to remove it was more than $600,000 and nearly 25 times the townâs annual snow-removal budget.
2 Drought and wildfires in Texas (2011): The worst drought on the stateâs records led to pavement damage and more than 30,000 wildfires throughout 2011. For many fires, the state department of transportation was asked to support the stateâs primary land management and fire control agencies; it later invested in protection equipment for its own crews. Pavement damage under the high heat conditions totaled $26 million, while support to wildfire control cost $5 million. Prolonged heat event in Wisconsin (2012): Temperatures soared in the summer of 2012, causing from 30 to 40 incidents per day of heat buckling on Wisconsin roadways. Costs for repairs totaled $800,000 to $1,000,000. These events had diverse impacts and covered different geographies, but it was possi- ble to analyze each case example under a common framework: Operations, Maintenance, Design, Construction, Planning, Communications, Interagency Coordination, and Data and Knowledge Management. The review of activities in these areas produced a list of lessons learned and related practices that other states can utilize or tailor to suit their own circum- stances. Some of these are: Findings related to state-level responses to extreme weather â¢ Reimbursement from federal programs drives many state practices. â¢ Interagency coordination is important to the efficient allocation of tasks and resources, including activities with National Guard and Emergency Management Assistance Compact support. â¢ Investments in training (e.g., emergency management, federal program reimburse- ment, geographic information system, and other subjects) was a common practice often cited as having facilitated response and recovery. â¢ Meetings, workshops, and other structured activities help state personnel share and document knowledge in preparation for future similar events. Findings related to a obtaining a unified, accessible knowledge base in this area â¢ Utilizing geospatial data to identify sites at risk and safe locations. â¢ Sharing information through online platforms, such as SharePoint and WebEOC, to enable a quick response. â¢ Developing After Action Reports and other records of effective practices and lessons learned from extreme weather events. â¢ Developing succession planning and record retention strategies to retain knowledge. This report concludes with research needs, based on current gaps in knowledge or prac- tice, including: â¢ Collect a common set of information from states that experienced the same extreme weather event to learn about differences before, during, and after the event as well as the lessons learned identified by each state; â¢ For each state, identify the extreme weather events projected to occur with more fre- quency or intensity in the future, develop a framework for an organized response, and collect a standard set of information and materials on previous events of a similar nature; and â¢ Develop research tools for identifying benefits and costs and the return on investment in extreme weather preparedness, resiliency, and adaptation strategies. Identifying common and recurring practices will help to establish a knowledge base for extreme weather preparedness and resiliency, aiding the significant investment decisions in infrastructure and human capital that will be made in the future.
3 report went to press, the president signed Executive Order No. 13,653, âPreparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Changeâ [78 Fed. Reg. 215 (Nov. 6, 2013)], which includes relevant directives to all major federal agencies including the Department of Transportation. A benefitâcost analysis to support an investment decision could consider extreme weather or climate change as one of many risks; however, efforts to conduct even high-level risk assessments to support decision making in the transporta- tion sector suggest that the actual availability of credible, actionable data is an important consideration (McLaughlin et al. 2011). There is an economic benefit from investing in the data sets and data collection technologiesâespecially geospatial dataâthat support extreme weather prepared- ness and response (Dasgupta 2013). Additionally, compara- tive studies that seek to weigh returns on investment require choices over appropriate methods and sound data; actual decision making on resiliency projects can require a certain level of detail in data sets in order to meet program and legal compliance. Yet the data and information needed to make short- and long- term decisions may not be fully understood or defined. Put another way, extreme weather events are termed âextremeâ largely because they are rare (LeviÃ¤kan- gas et al. 2011); as such, there may not be routine collection of the data most suitable for decision support. There are many ways that organizations can manage risks under such uncertainty, including development of a knowl- edge base. The emergency management community for example has highlighted accepted processes and protocols in key sectors, including those for transportation (Wallace et al. 2010). The emergency management community also is building a knowledge base for future decisions and action, such as the Lessons Learned Information System spon- sored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Many other sectors are organizing to address current and future responses to extreme weather and, more generally, climate change. For example, the National Climate Assessment, a program of the U.S. Global Change Research Program, con- venes the National Climate Assessment Network, known as NCAnet. Nearly 100 nonfederal entities have organized under NCAnet to discuss and act on issues of common inter- est relating to climate change response, forming Affinity Groups to structure the dialogue around key topics (Cloyd et al. 2012; Staudt et al. 2012). CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION OBJECTIVE The objective of this Synthesis Report is to identify common and recurring themes in state-level responses to extreme weather events that affect transportation in the United Statesâboth operations and infrastructureâand to contrib- ute to the development of a unified, accessible knowledge base for this wide-ranging topic area. BACKGROUND Extreme weather events have costly impactsâin both human and monetary terms. For example, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found 2011âs weather events to be the most expensive on record (NOAA n.d.). Physical damage and other effects on trans- portation systems from extreme weather highlight current vulnerabilities as well as future risks. Several U.S. states that have experienced extreme weather events are seek- ing ways to build more resiliency into their infrastructures (FHWA n.d.); for example, New Jersey, postâHurricane Sandy, is seeking $2.3 billion for this purpose (Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Plan 2013). At the same time, climate change projections suggest extreme weather events may occur more frequently and with greater severity in the future (National Climate Assessment 2013). To address this risk to the nationâs infrastructure, TRB has funded research on the threats to transportation invest- ments and the potential ways to address them [Potential Impacts of Climate Change on U.S. Transportation 2008; NCHRP Project 20-83(05) n.d.; Baglin 2012]. Also, FHWA funds state-level planning efforts to manage the extreme weather and climate change risks to the nationâs investments in transportation infrastructure (FHWA n.d.). State depart- ments of transportation (DOTs) and metropolitan planning organizations in the following states have participated in the FHWA pilot program: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washing- ton (FHWA n.d.). Federal programs established to help transportation systems recover from disasters and extreme weather impacts are evolving to address questions around resiliency (FHWA 2012, 2013b). More broadly, as this
4 Chapter three presents synthesis results. The chapter first summarizes the various lessons learned and practices across all case examples by the functional categories used to structure chapter two. Next, additional categories or subcat- egories that emerged from review and synthesis of the case examples are identified and described. Chapter four presents findings and suggestions for fur- ther study. RESEARCH METHOD There were two main study elements to this Synthesis Report: â¢ A literature review of reports, articles, and interviews in the media, as well as other work products on extreme weather events and their impacts on transportation, occurring between 2002 and 2012 in the United States. â¢ Case examples that were selected based on information from the literature review and initial interviews with state DOTs, later supplemented by structured inter- views and focused research on the extreme weather event in question. This Synthesis Report was supported by a panel of experts from multiple disciplines, including state DOT operations and maintenance, emergency management, and sustainability units, as well as academics and consultants who are experts in transportation and climate change adap- tation. Detailed descriptions of methods used and materials reviewed, as well as a profile of interviewees, are presented in Appendix A. Appendix B includes the interview discus- sion guide used with every interviewee. GLOSSARY AND ACRONYMS The focus of this Synthesis Report is extreme weather and ways to address its consequences, particularly its impacts on state DOT missions. This report uses several terms, such as âoperationsâ to describe common mission-related func- tions of state DOTs that are likely to be familiar to the broad TRB audience. These terms are not defined, given variances within every state. Other terms used in this report, such as âIncident Command System,â fall under the rubric of emergency management. Under emergency management procedures, state transporta- tion staff responsible for one function may get assigned tem- porarily to a different but related area of responsibility. The case examples note the management scheme in place both at the time of the extreme weather event and afterward. The glossary provides details on the usage of certain terms. The case examples expand on such details as needed Affinity Groups are a type of Community of Practice, which are recognized tools for information sharing (Wenger 2002). The practice of actively acquiring, creating, and shar- ing knowledge is called Knowledge Management. In addi- tion to Communities of Practice, a common Knowledge Management tool is a data collection framework. Such a framework can become the foundation for databases to store and share information. An example is the Climate Data Ini- tiative in the Presidentâs plan to prepare the country for the impacts of climate change (The Presidentâs Climate Action Plan 2013). A key element of a data collection framework is gover- nance, such as setting the objectives for data collection and agreeing on data analysis methodologies and tools. Informa- tion governance is especially important when databases will contain multiple kinds of content, such as lessons learned, observed practices, and key decisions. A strategy to classify content types and categorize topics can support the creation of a successful database. For wide-ranging subjects, this cat- egorizationâor taxonomyâstrategy enables diverse users of a database to find what they are looking for more easily through the use of multiple filters. Sample projects utiliz- ing a taxonomy strategy include web portals, such as AAS- HTOâs Workforce Toolkit, TRBâs Freight Data Dictionary and Transportation Research Thesaurus, and the U.S.DOT Climate Change Clearinghouse. Such Knowledge Manage- ment tools can help users, such as state DOT staff, search for, assess, and leverage the content most relevant to their circumstances. As noted, a starting point is agreeing on key categories and their scope. The review for this Synthesis Report proceeded from this background. REPORT STRUCTURE This reportâs intended audience is state DOT decision mak- ers. The activities that constitute a state DOTâs response to extreme weather occur at all levels: planning, budgetary, and those business offices that support front-line employees and managers before, during, and after extreme weather events. Chapter two describes case examples from eight state DOTs that have managed the impacts of extreme weather events in the past decade. The case examples present approaches to addressing extreme weather effects, cat- egorized according to functions commonly conducted by state DOTs, including operations, maintenance, planning, construction, design, public communications, interagency coordination and data and Knowledge Management. Activi- ties in related areas, such as emergency management, are addressed when appropriate. Each case example includes a summary of practices that may assist in addressing extreme weather impacts.
5 to distinguish the particular circumstances of a state. Recurring words and phrases are represented by acronyms throughout the report. A list of the most common acronyms follows the glossary. Glossary State DOTâA state department of transportation, including agencies whose names may not include the phrase âdepart- ment of transportation.â A state DOT is the primary agency in a state that owns, operates, regulates, and manages state- wide transportation infrastructure. Emergency ManagementâThe broad class of agencies or people involved in the practice of managing emergencies and other incidents of all kinds. Incident Command System (ICS)âA standardized on-scene emergency management construct specifically designed to provide for the adoption of an integrated organi- zational structure that reflects the complexity and demands of single or multiple incidents, without being hindered by jurisdictional boundaries. ICS is the combination of facili- ties, equipment, personnel, procedures, and communica- tions operating within a common organizational structure, designed to aid in the management of resources during inci- dents. It is used for all kinds of emergencies and is applicable to small as well as to large and complex incidents. ICS is used by various jurisdictions and functional agencies, both public and private, to organize field-level incident manage- ment operations. Knowledge ManagementâComprises the variety of principles, strategies, and practices used by an organization to identify, collect, organize, preserve, disseminate, share, generate, and apply critical knowledge. Acronyms DDIR Detailed Damage Inspection Report EM Emergency management EO Emergency operations ER Emergency relief ETO Emergency Transportation Operations FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency ICS Incident Command System PA Public assistance