An unusual January storm bent palm trees and turned city sidewalks into creeks as a small group of Miami-area mayors and administrators huddled in Pinecrest, one of Miami-Dade County's 34 municipalities. They had come at the invitation of Pinecrest's mayor to discuss rising sea levels, long predicted by climate change scientists and now regularly inundating their towns. The mood in the room was somewhere between pessimism and panic.
On the agenda: making flood prediction maps to help prioritize which roads, schools and hospitals to save as waters rise; how to keep saltwater from leaching into the aquifer; and what to do about 1.6 million septic tanks whose failure could create a Third World sanitation challenge. Someone also brought up the alarming possibility of the sea engulfing the nearby Turkey Point nuclear power plant.
The scale of South Florida's looming catastrophe--$69 billion worth of property is at risk of flooding in less than 15 years--is playing out like a big-budget disaster movie, but dealing with it has been largely left to local political and business leaders in tiny rooms like the Pinecrest Municipal Center's Council Chamber.
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