Mayor's Corner: Severe Weather

It would be an understatement to say that weather in Northeast Ohio has been extreme in recent weeks. With eight tornadoes touching down across nearby communities, multiple earthquakes shaking Lake County, and torrential 30-year thunderstorm events drenching the entire region, we have all been affected. The fallout from this extreme weather has ranged from basement backups from stormwater to trees smashing into homes to power outages at over 140,00 homes (some lasting up to a week).

Here in Lakewood, on Wednesday August 23rd we saw more rain in a shorter time than any other city in our county – nearly four inches fell in just a few hours. This storm, along with a similar storm in July, were both measured to be 30-year-plus storm events. Unfortunately, that overwhelming amount of precipitation resulted in many residents experiencing flooded basements and the misery that comes with it. This was not unique to Lakewood as these backups occurred throughout Cuyahoga County and the region.

The overall systems our cities have in place were simply overwhelmed by Mother Nature. Whether it was Bay Village or Gates Mills, homes and businesses were soaked and suffering. The storm was so severe that ODOT completely closed Interstate 90 in both directions through Lakewood, while our Fire Department had to perform swift-water rescues of ten motorists trapped in their cars on the highway and at risk of drowning. This endeavor was a first for our brave firefighters.

Following the storm, our Public Works Department has been working heavy hours to deal with the fallout. That includes helping homeowners assess flooded basements; working overtime to run extra refuse routes to pick up trash generated from storm damage; and dealing with the damage to trees across the city.

All of this makes us question what the future holds for weather in Lakewood and Northeast Ohio. How often will we be experiencing these types of severe and even scary climate events in the years to come? Is the new norm that we must deal with an ever-increasing frequency of intense storms? Unfortunately, the signs and the science point to an answer of yes.

With this in mind, the City of Lakewood has been taking steps to be proactive in addressing the threats that climate impacts place on our community. In May, the City officially adopted a Climate Action Plan, which has elements dedicated to ensuring that our community is ready and resilient in the face of an evolving climate and more frequent and intense major weather events.

Lakewood’s sewer system is over 100 years old and clearly outdated, so last year we also dedicated $25 million in ARPA funding as part of our effort to upgrade the system and continue implementing our Integrated Wet Weather Improvement Plan (IWWIP). The sewer upgrades being implemented include two soon-to-be-constructed sewer overflow basins, one at our sewer plant and another on Lake Avenue, that will provide millions of additional gallons of overflow capacity during major deluges like the ones we have recently experienced. A capital project to upgrade our storm interceptor that runs the length of our city along Edgewater Drive is also currently underway.

The team at City Hall will continue to focus on implementing both our IWWIP and our Climate Action Plan to make Lakewood more climate resilient. While climate change is an issue that affects us all, our city is focused on being a leader in adapting and making sure the impacts to the quality of life for our residents are minimized.

Volume 19, Issue 17, Posted 3:28 PM, 09.06.2023