Stormy Weather

Last week, we experienced fierce thunderstorms coupled with hail in lower Westchester County New York. The immediate result of the hail which was about one eights of an inch in diameter is that almost all trees, shrubs, and flowers were damaged. Soft leaved plants like hydrangea and perennials like rudbeckia were shredded. Some tougher leaved plants escaped damage, but some like sedum plants were squashed by the pelting hail stones.

Leaves form trees were torn out of their branches blocking up some drains in streets and adding to the flooding that was already in progress in lower lying areas, like under train overpasses for example. Cars stalled in flooded streets, a police car was pushed out of a small lake that had been wolfs lane twenty minutes earlier, by a higher riding SUV.

The bad news is that due to global warming, weather forecasts for our region over the next ten years call for an increase in this sort of thunderstorm activity and a reduction in slower steadier rains that were once the norm. In towns with lower lying areas, the implications are that sewage systems will have to be upgraded to accommodate increased storm water runoff from the more intensive storms whose steady increase in occurrence have been predicted and are coming to realization.

Other means of managing storm water issues are encouraging greenroofs wherever possible. Greenroofs, a thin layer of plantings that cover a rooftop for energy savings, extended roof life, and many other environmental benefits, also absorb 80% of the water that lands on them. Introducing permeable surfaces wherever possible will also help with mitigating storm water runoff. For example, brick crosswalks that are not mortared will allow some water to be absorbed by the earth below. Paver sidewalks are another possibility, and perhaps paver streets in our shopping centers, which though more expensive to install, have greater longevity making them less expensive per year and having the added benefit of again allowing water to seep between them into the earth below.

Point being, design and planning, whether it be for a property, a village, or a town, cant occur in a vacuum. Eco-friendly landscape design demands that planning for the property consider the wider impact of choices made. Maybe a greenroof is not appropriate, but mitigating storm water, and hopefully even re-using it is always appropriate. Stormwater needs to be considered bothfrom the stance of how it effects the property, as well as how it effects the immediate vicinity and the region.

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