The rain came hard and fast early on the morning of June 23, 2016. By 2 p.m., water was knee deep in Bill Bell’s appliance store on Main Street in Rainelle, a small town on the western edge of Greenbrier County, West Virginia. Bell began elevating the washing machines and dishwashers, thinking that would be enough. Within hours, he’d lose it all. Today, his shop is up and running once again, but the memory of the flood runs deep.

Twenty-three people were killed by the 2016 floods, making it one of the deadliest on record. More than 1,500 homes and businesses were destroyed, and another 2,500 significantly damaged, while losses to highways and bridges totaled about $53 million.

Scientists, some state lawmakers and even federal agencies are sounding the alarm that West Virginia’s once-in-a-millennia 2016 downpour that lead to catastrophic flooding is not an isolated event. The hydrologic system that humanity has relied on and built its infrastructure around is changing. The future will be both more intense and more variable.

But as communities rebuild, the state’s response to the climate challenge has been mixed, at best, raising questions about how prepared people will be for the next disaster. While some officials and planning documents do acknowledge the threat of climate change to West Virginia, a state office established after the 2016 flood to enhance resiliency has stalled.

Scientists, like Nicolas Zegre at WVU, said it’s true that researchers cannot be certain about future natural disasters, and they can’t say when a precipitation event like 2016 will happen again.

But they say the models are clear, and more intense precipitation events are expected.

“Nothing is going to be meaningful unless we have honest conversations about climate change and what it means for West Virginia,” he said.

Read the full article about recognizing the role of climate change in natural disasters by Brittany Patterson at Inside Climate News.