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“Resiliency in the Mountain State” panel discusses vulnerability of local communities

By Tom Markland, The Journal

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. — Four panelists gathered at Shepherd University on Wednesday night to discuss resiliency and how communities across West Virginia can stay strong through economic shifts, climate change and infrastructure demands.

Lauren Johnson, senior analyst at the Environmental Defense Fund, led the panel by showing off the new Climate Vulnerability Index, a tool used to show how vulnerable different communities are to a wide variety of issues — from access to supermarkets to quality of housing.

“Translating lived experience and advocacy into data visualizations can help us see which communities face the greatest challenges from the impacts of climate change,” Johnson said.

The map identifies each county in the United States, showing its overall vulnerability to all of the issues and giving the option to look at individual issues. It shows Jefferson County in the 32nd percentile, a lower vulnerability than several surrounding counties.

According to Johnson, the biggest issue for Shepherdstown is infrastructure, ranking first in the state for infrastructure-related issues like bridge quality and road maintenance.

Another major issue is being ill-prepared for extreme storms, a common problem in West Virginia, as many cities don’t have stormwater systems built to high enough standards for the ever-increasing rate of dangerous weather events.

“In the city of Morgantown, where I’m from, there’s been these 500-year rain events that have been documented more frequently,” Delegate Evan Hansen said. “And our stormwater infrastructure is built for 100-year storms like they’ve built across the country.”

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