We hope that Forsyth County — as well as the rest of Northwest North Carolina and southern Virginia — has recovered fully from the unexpectedly powerful storm system that hit our region at the end of last week — actually, it was part of a monster system that stretched from Louisiana into Virginia, leaving more than 260,000 homes and businesses without power on Friday morning. At least five people throughout the Southeast were killed. We mourn their loss.
At its worst point on Thursday evening, more than 82,000 Duke Energy customers in North Carolina had lost power, but linemen were already making progress in restoring that power before Friday morning. We appreciate their hard work.
The region also saw extensive flooding that closed roads and bridges, including a bridge on Mizpah Church Road in Tobaccoville and one on Harper Road in Clemmons. Storm drainage systems throughout Winston-Salem were backed up. Water-rescue teams from the Winston-Salem Fire Department rescued 20 people from flooded or flood-threatened homes. We appreciate their dedication.
Along with nearly three inches of rain, winds gusted as high as 26 mph Thursday night and 43 mph Friday morning, according to the National Weather Service, at times howling between buildings like banshees.
All in all, we got off easy. Winston-Salem has suffered worse — as when a tornado passed through town in 2008.
But it was still distressing. And it provides a timely reminder of the seriousness with which we must approach climate change. Anyone who thought that we, for some reason, would be immune from its effects must now reassess.
Note we’re not stating that climate change was the cause of the storms — that would be too simplistic, given the complexity of both weather and climate.
But the scientists who have studied climate change for decades say that such storm events are expected to increase in frequency and severity. It’s an influential factor that we can’t afford to minimize.
Our nation’s overall response to climate change is currently a mixed bag. At the highest level, our ability to combat it has been undermined by the withdrawal from the Paris accord and the decimation of climate scientists in the Trump administration — more than 700 scientists have left or been forced out of the EPA in the last three years. This, while those institutions that can’t afford to play politics — including the Pentagon and both the insurance and actuary industries — take its effects seriously.
Some who previously denied climate change’s existence seem to finally be coming around, joining the U.S. House’s bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, urging one-trillion tree-planting efforts and giving serious consideration to cap-and-trade policies like the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act.
North Carolina’s representatives should join such efforts.
Winston-Salem has joined many communities across the country in trying to align with the Paris accord goals abandoned by President Trump — our officials track and report greenhouse-gas emissions and are using grants to replace gasoline and diesel vehicles with those that use cleaner fuels.
In December, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners voted to try to get county operations totally reliant on clean and renewable energy sources by 2050, an effort that would ease the potential effects — including financial costs — of climate change.
But more is needed, and quickly. On Thursday, a balmy 65-degree temperature was recorded in Antarctica — the warmest measured temperature there in history. Also on Thursday, the journal Science reported that the number of areas populated by bumblebees — necessary for food production — has fallen 46% in North America because of extreme temperatures.
We can’t afford to fool around. Coordinated effort is needed — now.