Dear Fellow Marylanders,
This weekend is going to be a rainy one, so please stay safe and find somewhere warm and dry to avoid the remnants of Hurricane Ian. Check on your neighbors – and your pets – and avoid driving through standing water. Rain may be heavy, and nearly every corner of our state has neighborhoods that we all know are prone to flooding. Be careful if you must be out.
So far, we are not expecting to get the same drubbing from Ian that South Carolina is experiencing, but weather can change quickly. This hurricane is the fourth named hurricane of the 2022 season. It followed Fiona, Danielle and Earl. Now a Category 1 hurricane, Ian blasted its way through Florida earlier this week as a more intense Category 4 hurricane. Winds were up to 150 miles per hour. Two million residents were left without power. At least 20 people have been killed.
The images of the destruction caused by Hurricane Ian are heart-wrenching. Streets are flooded and boats are washed into residential neighborhoods while marinas look like floating junkyards.
Thanks to the expert forecasting from meteorologists and others at the National Weather Service, which is headquartered in Silver Spring, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Red Cross were able to pre-position emergency supplies in anticipation of the storm and they are on the ground in Florida now helping those in need. Among them are first responders and volunteers from Baltimore, Prince George’s County, Montgomery County and elsewhere in Maryland. I appreciate the work these Marylanders are doing under the worst of circumstances. Their heroic actions will be remembered long after Ian passes.
It was just two weeks ago that Hurricane Fiona barreled through Puerto Rico, knocking out power for the entire island after high winds and an incredible 20-30 inches of rain in some areas. The federal response was immediate. FEMA reports that 1,000 federal workers are “on the ground to support power restoration, debris removal, urban search and rescue and other response activities.” But the damage was severe, and nearly 20 percent of the island – hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses – are still waiting for clean water and electricity. Flooding is a major problem. Sadly, our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico are only now receiving some of the funding that was supposed to help them after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The aftermath of this latest hurricane is sure to be the most severe on the more than 43 percent of Puerto Ricans who live below the poverty line.
The people of Puerto Rico, Florida, South Carolina and elsewhere across America deserve the support of the federal government to rebuild their lives and make their communities more resilient in the future. This is the same for any natural disaster or emergency and one of the reasons we are investing resources within the federal government for disaster response and damage prevention.
The severity of such storms has increased in recent years, according to scientists and researchers. Climate change has brought with it more extreme weather, which has spurred increased coastal and inland flooding. We’ve seen it here in Maryland, whether it is the Annapolis City Dock, Main Street Ellicott City, Frederick County or the coastal communities of the Eastern Shore.
Our forecasters at the National Weather Service are the best in the world, but climate change is altering the landscape, literally. Overnight, Hurricane Ian intensified rapidly from a Category 3 storm into Category 4 – almost 5. Factors driven by climate change, such as warmer ocean temperatures and moisture in the air, help strengthen these storms in ways not typically seen. Unfortunately, these quickly changing conditions make it even more challenging for adequate preparations and evacuations.
For these reasons and more, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress last year is directing $47.2 billion nationwide to address critical infrastructure needs, including coastal and ecosystem resiliency and weatherization. By drawing on best available science, data modeling, and proven solutions, these investments can help communities adapt to higher seas, stronger storms and more frequent flooding. I am proud that this once-in-a-generation package authorizes a version of my bipartisan legislation, the Clean Water Infrastructure Resilience and Sustainability Act, which helps communities prepare their drinking water, wastewater and storm water infrastructure to meet the threats posed by increasing instances of extreme weather and changing conditions.
When a storm hits, our immediate focus is necessarily on protecting lives, emergency response and recovery. But we also need to acknowledge and account for the impacts of climate change – impacts made worse by decades of delay and denial in our politics. With the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, this Congress has achieved a major breakthrough at the federal level. The Inflation Reduction Act, for example, appropriates $2.6 billion to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to support the conservation, restoration and protection of coastal and marine habitats and resources to enable coastal communities to prepare for extreme storms and other changing climate conditions.
Overcoming climate change and protecting our communities will require a continued commitment and cooperation across all levels of government and the private sector. Storms will still rage, but if we can reduce the damage, lessen the flooding and keep the lights on, while reducing dangerous emissions, emergency personnel can focus their attention on the hardest hit areas and we can save lives.
If you would like to learn more about how you can help those affected by the recent hurricanes, FEMA has established a portal with useful information that can point you in the right direction. During our most tragic moments, Americans pull together in kinship and community to lift up those in need.
Thank you for your time. Stay safe and, as always, if you would like to send me your thoughts on this topic or any other, please feel free to reply to this email or use my website to share your opinion.