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Resources for Understanding Hurricane Florence

Hurricane Florence is expected to affect the Carolinas beginning on Thursday. The storm could bring high winds and dump up to 40 inches of rain over some areas over the next several days, causing significant flooding.

The following is a list of Frontier Group resources that may be useful to the public, the media and policy-makers tracking the storm.

Extreme Weather Events and Global Warming Global warming is anticipated to increase the frequency and severity of certain extreme weather events. Our 2010 report with Environment America Research and Policy Center, Global Warming and Extreme Weather: The Science, The Forecast, and the Impacts on America, explored the linkage between global warming and extreme weather events such as hurricanes, and showed that extreme weather disasters are a regular occurrence across the United States. More recently, we partnered again with Environment America Research and Policy Center to produce an online map showing weather-related disasters in the United States from 2010 to 2015 and telling the stories of the people and communities who have endured some of those weather events.

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Extreme Precipitation and Global Warming: Among the expected consequences of global warming is an increase in the frequency and severity of extreme precipitation events, fueled by increased evaporation and the ability of a warmer atmosphere to hold more moisture. Our 2012 report with Environment America Research and Policy Center, When It Rains, It Pours, documents the increases in both frequency and intensity of downpours across the United States over a 50-year period, and discusses what we can do to reduce the global warming that is driving these drastic changes in our weather patterns.

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Coal Ash Ponds in the Path of Hurricane Florence: Numerous coal-fired power plants with onsite storage of coal ash waste are in the potential path of Hurricane Florence. Coal ash ponds can be susceptible to failure or spillage during heavy precipitation events or flooding, with devastating consequences for the environment, wildlife and human health. Accidents Waiting to Happen describes the environmental and public health consequences of coal ash pond failures and identifies ponds located within the FEMA 100-year flood zone. The factsheet, Coal Ash Ponds in the Path of Hurricane Florence, provides further information on coal ash ponds in the Southeast specifically.

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Nuclear Power Plants in the Path of Hurricane Florence: Powerful hurricanes like Hurricane Florence present multiple risks to nuclear power stations. High winds can down power lines that deliver electricity that nuclear plants use to run their cooling systems. Flooding can damage back-up generators or key components needed to keep reactors safe. Flooding can be caused by heavy rain that raises the level of rivers and reservoirs, by intense local precipitation that overwhelms on-site drainage systems, or by wind-driven intrusion of water into buildings. Storm surges can also cause flooding. Nuclear Power Plants in the Path of Hurricane Florence provides further information on nuclear power plants in areas that may be affected by Hurricane Florence.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011 was primarily caused by a tsunami and the resultant flooding. Frontier Group and U.S. PIRG Education Fund released the report Too Close to Home in 2012, detailing the impacts the disaster had on drinking water sources. The report also found that 49 million Americans received their drinking water from sources within 50 miles of active nuclear power plants. North Carolina ranked fourth in the country for the number of residents living within 50 miles of a nuclear power plant. The Fukushima accident contaminated drinking water sources up to 130 miles away with radioactivity.

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Toxics: Many chemical plants lay in the projected path of Hurricane Florence. Flooding and power outages can cause unsafe conditions at chemical plants including explosions, posing a health and safety concern for residents. The 2010 report by our partner organization U.S. PIRG Education Fund, Chemical Insecurity, looks at chemical manufacturing and storage plants that pose major risks to surrounding populations in the event of disaster.

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We intend to update and augment this list as Hurricane Florence progresses.

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