Western Massachusetts communities prepare for future natural disasters


HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Local leaders attended a seminar in Holyoke Thursday to discuss ways on how to protect the Pioneer Valley from natural disasters.

Extreme storms, flooding, and brush fires are things people have to plan for. 

In 2017 alone, there was more than $300 billion in real estate damage from storms across the country. 

The executive director of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission told 22News, “How do we make communities anticipate that this is the reality? As unhappy as it may be,” Tim Brennan said.

Andre Leroux of the Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance told 22News that many times, poorer communities are hit the hardest during these natural disasters. 

“If we can do good planning now, if we can make investments in our most vulnerable communities, that would strengthen the housing,” said Leroux. “Potentially, we should be looking at places that are flood prone.”

According to Leroux, building affordable housing higher than flood levels, and in areas that aren’t flood planes, can help poorer communities during natural disasters.

Mayors of both Holyoke and Easthampton added that the seminar allows towns to work together to come up with the best solutions. 

“Our thought as municipal leaders need to be ‘This is not a siloed issue,'” Easthampton mayor Nicole LaChapelle said.

“It’s important we have regional, state and national collaboration, and every community at the table pushing forward to do their part to combat climate change,” Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse added.

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