Bear with this piece. Granted it is pretty dopey in a lot of ways but at least they are starting to realize weather [read climate from longer sequences of weather events] is cyclical and just because certain events only appear about 10 times in a 1,000-year proxy series doesn’t mean they’ll be 100 years apart. If conditions suit you might get a run of such events and then not a single one for centuries.
The financial tally for the Finch Avenue Washout ranks as the most expensive natural disaster in the province’s history. The private insurance payout nudges $600 million. As a point of comparison, insurance payouts for the Peterborough flood of 2004 didn’t quite reach a sixth of that.
We knew it was bad then.
Now we know it’s only going to get worse.
Between the years 1986 and 2006, Toronto experienced not one but eight storms of the magnitude that had been predicted to occur no more than once in a quarter-century. The Finch Avenue Washout was the capper, a one-in-100-years storm for which the city’s infrastructure was woefully under-designed. “It was the transformative event that really triggered a new approach to urban flooding,” D’Andrea says.
When we talk about the city’s “adaptation” strategy to water management in the face of extreme weather, the Finch Avenue Washout is the trigger point. In the wake of past storms, D’Andrea explains, the city upsized sanitary sewer systems commensurate with the size of the storm.
“Time marches on and inevitably there’s a storm far greater than the storm that system was adjusted to” he says. “So you can appreciate what the public confidence is as we march forward.” Public confidence, D’Andrea adds, acknowledging the sea of sodden city home owners this summer, is “out the window.”
Does it help to know that there are many smart people at work on the problem? Post-2005, the city quickly and aggressively amended its Wet Weather Flow Master Plan, which had been adopted in 2003 with a primary focus on the cleanup of the waterfront and stream restoration in the hard-surfaced, urbanized environment. The initial master plan made no provisions for climate change adaptation.