EAST GREENWICH–A major hurricane comes barreling up the coast, and it has little Rhody in its cross hairs. If it were to happen this year, East Greenwich, and many of its neighboring towns would be looking to buy swimmies, and scrambling for ways to keep residents safe.

However, East Greenwich is now working with a consulting firm, and asking for help from its residents while updating a Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan.

The current plan–which was created by the town five years ago–needs to be updated, according to the state and FEMA.

The old plan can be found on the town planning department’s web page, and there is a section where residents can make comments and offer suggestions.

Craig Pereira, a consultant and senior planner with the Providence-based Horsley Witten Group, and the person who will be helping the town through the process, said without a plan, filed with the state the towns would probably not receive any federal funding should disaster strike.

And even with a plan, anyone of the state’s 39 towns and cities might be shortchanged by FEMA should a neighboring town do a better job of selling its need for money to cope with the disaster.

“It’s going to be a competitive process for the money,” Pereira said. “But having an updated plan in place will put the town in a position for funding.”

Pereira said he expects to see a draft plan ready for public meetings by early fall, and an adopted plan by the winter.

“There’s a real prospect of injury, death and extensive property loss if a natural hazard occurs here,” said town manager Andrew Nota.

With the town coming out of the pandemic, it’s time to begin to work on the plan, council members said.

“We’ve been working on this for a couple of months,” Pereira, who has been doing this for more than 20-years, said.

Some of the scenarios town officials have been working on include: Climate Change and how warmer or colder air will affect storms and their impact on Rhode Island as well as contributing to rising seas, flood related hazardous, when mother nature dumps several inches of rain on the state in a short period of time, high winds and their impact on coastal flooding, and property damage and snow storms. While Rhode Island doesn’t have many big storms, in the past it has had a few, which have knocked out services throughout the state, and inland and urban flooding.

“We’ve had blizzards, and nor’easters hit the state pretty hard,” Pereira said.

Wild fires, and droughts are also on the minds of the town’s planners who want to see them included in the plan as well.

“Climate change is probably the most significant, since the last plan was developed,” Pereira said. 

“While it was a concern last time, it has become more significant in the ensuing years, he added.

One item new to this plan will be “the affect that invasive species have on the state’s waterways, stream banks, and fields and forests.”

One such example is Japanese Knotweed, which is an aggressive plant that has gotten a foothold in the state, according to Lisa Bourbonnais, town planner.

The town will also have to develop a plan on how to deal with businesses and tourists, should disaster hit.

“We’ll also have to look out for our vulnerable population, such as seniors and the disabled,” Bourbonnais said. “As well as our cultural, economic, and social assets.”

“This is a living document,” Pereira said, “and we need residents to speak up and get involved.”

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