Oil Tanker Fire Near Hong Kong Kills 1, Potential Spill Could Threaten Endangered Turtles and Dolphins

ecowatch.com
By Olivia Rosane

A rescue boat races to the scene of an oil tanker fire off the Hong Kong coast Tuesday. Hong Shaokui / China News Service / VCG via Getty Images

An oil tanker caught fire off of Hong Kong’s Lamma Island Tuesday morning, leaving one person dead and two missing.

“We could see that the victim who passed away had been burned,” police representative Wong Wai-hang said in a briefing reported by The New York Times. “There were clear injuries on his head and fractures in his hands and feet.”

An additional 23 crew members were rescued from the water. Four were injured and one was being treated in intensive care.

The explosions were strong enough to be felt by residents of the nearby island, CNN reported.

“My windows shook really badly but (there) was no wind,” Lamma resident Deb Lindsay told CNN. “I thought there had been an earthquake!”

Lamma Island residents worried about a potential oil spill reaching their coastline. Southern Lamma Island hosts a protective nesting site for green turtles, a severely endangered species. An endangered colony of white dolphins also calls Hong Kong waters home.

Turtle sightings dwindle on Hong Kong’s ‘turtle cove’ http://www.youtube.com

Hong Kong’s Environmental Protection Department told CNN that cleaning vessels had been immediately placed on standby but that no oil spill had yet been detected. Some liquid was seen spilling from the boat, but it was unclear if it was oil or water from firefighting, and there was no oil residue on the water around the vessel.

The boat had been refueling in Hong Kong on its way to Thailand from the southern Chinese city of Dongguan, The New York Times reported.

The Fire Services Department’s division commander of marine and diving Yiu Men-yeung told The South China Morning Post that the boat was tilted 30 degrees as of Tuesday evening but was at no risk of sinking.

However, officials said the boat was too hot to tow away immediately, or to board to discover the cause of the fire, and would need several days to cool down.

One fire department insider with 30 years of experienced explained to the South China Morning Post that fighting fires on oil tankers was especially challenging:

“Depending on the situation, the two major fireboats spray foam to coat the tanker and suppress combustion. Other fireboats use water jets to cool the vessel,” the insider said, on condition of anonymity.

“It has taken [firefighters overseas] several days or even a few weeks to extinguish oil tanker fires in worst-case scenarios. It is definitely not easy.”

The insider also added that rescue operations were difficult because the heat of the vessels made boarding perilous. Further, the fact that oil leaks could cause fires to break out on the water itself make rescue diving too dangerous.
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For the Most Recent Updates on the Fire in California go to… http://www.fire.ca.gov/current_incidents

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Hurricane Florence threatens spills from hog farms, sewage plants

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mcclatchydc.com
By Stuart Leavenworth And John Murawski
13-16 minutes

Hurricane Florence threatens to kill thousands of farm animals and trigger catastrophic spills of waste as it bears down on a Carolina coastal region dotted with sewage treatment plants, hog waste lagoons, poultry farms and coal ash ponds.

Past hurricanes, including Matthew in 2016, caused numerous spills from sewage treatment plants and livestock farms, complicating the task of cleaning up after the storm. Florence poses an even more serious risk, especially if the Category 4 hurricane parks itself over the region and dumps record amounts of rain.

Soil in much of the Carolinas is already saturated by several months of rainfall, adding to the potential risk of flooding and the collapse of earthen lagoons containing hog manure, coal ash or other types of waste.

“It heightens the risk,” said Frank Holleman, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The fact that the soil is already wet means surrounding land has less capacity to absorb the water. That means these lagoons are at greater threat of being overwhelmed.”

Industry and municipal officials say they are taking steps to minimize the chance of spills. Some accuse environmentalists of exaggerating the threat.

“The preparations for a hurricane began long before the past few hours or days,” said Brandon Warren, president of the North Carolina Pork Council, in a statement. “Our farmers take hurricane threats extremely seriously.”

Hurricane Florence is so large it is certain to cause pollution releases in the Carolinas and Virginia, especially in urban areas that have combined sewer and storm-water systems. In 2016 and 2017, there were 136 sewage spills in an eight-county of eastern North Carolina, 36 of which were caused by severe weather, including 11 caused by Hurricane Matthew, according to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

 

North Carolina is also one of the nation’s top livestock producers, ranking third in poultry production and second in hog production, with more than 2,000 permitted swine farms and 9.3 million pigs. Sampson and Duplin counties are the two biggest producers and, as of Tuesday afternoon, both were within the projected path of Florence.

Most hog farms manage their waste by depositing it in earthen pits, known as lagoons, and spraying it on nearby fields. During big storms, uncovered lagoons — especially those that haven’t been drawn down — can fill up with rain and overflow.

Although the pork industry says that instances of lagoon failure are rare, there have been cases of earthen berms breaking and spilling lagoon waste into waterways. One of the most famous occurred in Onslow County in 1995, causing the worst agricultural spill in state history and leading to a 1997 state moratorium on new hog lagoons.

During Hurricane Floyd in 1999, thousands of hogs were drowned by flood waters, with some found floating down creeks and rivers. That storm also inundated more than 50 hog lagoons, according to figures by the North Carolina Pork Council, which represents both farmers and big pork processors, such as Smithfield Foods.

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Struggling to stay alive, hogs from a hog farm approximately 10 miles south of Trenton, NC wait for rescue on the roof of a swine barn as flood waters from the Neuse River claim the hogs too tired to swim anymore following Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

 

In preparation for Florence, the pork council released a statement saying its farmers were moving animals to higher ground, protecting feed stocks and assessing levels of waste in lagoons. Under their state permits, hog farmers must monitor the waste levels in their lagoons at least weekly and after every weather event causing one-inch of rain or more, according to Bridget Munger, a spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.

Munger added that, following Hurricane Floyd, North Carolina created a program to provide financial assistance for shutting down lagoons located in the 100-year flood plain. Some 43 swine farms and 100 lagoons in floodplains were closed as a part of the program, she said.

On Tuesday, hog farmer Tom Butler of Harnett County said he’s confident his operations can withstand the storm. But he’s watching the track closely.

“It’s been a wet summer. Five weeks of almost continuous rain,” Butler said. “I have covered lagoons. I can’t imagine guys with open lagoons.”

In its statement, the pork council took a shot at environmental groups for stoking hurricane fears.

“Despite dire predictions from activist environmental groups, North Carolina farmers were well prepared for Hurricane Matthew when it arrived in October 2016,” it said in its statement. The group added that only one waste lagoon failed because of the storm, with 14 others inundated.

Overall, 2,800 hogs and 1.8 million poultry birds died in that storm, according to Heather Overton, a spokeswoman with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.

Holleman said that coal ash pits managed by Duke Energy, Dominion and other utilities are one of his biggest worries. Some of these pits have failed and caused spills even in relatively good weather.
Floyd2.ST.091899.MBN.JPEG

A farmer rescues a hog from drowning at a hog farm approximately 10 miles south of Trenton, NC. Hogs had climbed on top of their swine barn as flood waters from the Neuse River rose after the passage of Hurricane Floyd in 1999.

Mel Nathanson newsobserver.com

One of the largest spills occurred in February 2014, when 39,000 tons of coal ash flowed into the Dan River from a broken drainage pipe at Duke Energy’s facility in Eden, N.C. Environmentalists also claimed that Duke Energy was responsible for a coal ash spill in the Neuse River during Hurricane Matthew, an accusation the DEQ rejected at the time.

Erin Culbert, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, said the company has been working to prepare ash basins and cooling ponds for the hurricane. Duke has “pre-staged field staff and equipment” to several ash basin sites, including four in North Carolina and one in South Carolina. “These sites already have lower levels of water in the ash basins due to our basin closure work and can hold significant rainfall,” she said in an email.

Following any flood event, state and federal environmental officials recommend caution in cleaning up property and items that could have become contaminated by flood waters. Such water could be contaminated by toxins and fecal bacteria that could trigger a range of health problems, including rashes and severe food poisoning.

https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/article218184535.html

The News & Observer’s Craig Jarvis contributed to this report.

Life-saving Weather Forecast Cost $3 a Person Annually Trump Wants to Slash Them

Trump wants to cripple storm forecasting just when it’s getting good — and we need it most.

By Eric Holthaus on Oct 23, 2017

As Hurricane Harvey roared toward the Texas coast in late August, weather models showed something that forecasters had never seen before: predictions of four feet of rainfall in the Houston area over five days — a year’s worth of rain in less than a week.

“I’ve been doing this stuff for almost 50 years,” says Bill Read, a former director of the National Hurricane Center who lives in Houston. “The rainfall amounts … I didn’t believe ‘em. 50-inch-plus rains — I’ve never seen a model forecast like that anywhere close to accurate.

“Lo and behold, we had it.”

That unbelievable-but-accurate rain forecast is just one example of the great leap forward in storm forecasting made possible by major improvements in instruments, satellite data, and computer models. These advancements are happening exactly when we need them to — as a warmer, wetter atmosphere produces more supercharged storms, intense droughts, massive wildfires, and widespread flooding, threatening lives and property.

And yet the Trump administration’s climate denial and proposed cuts threaten these advances, spreading turmoil in the very agencies that can predict disasters better than ever. The president’s budget proposal would slash the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s budget by 16 percent, including 6 percent from the National Weather Service.

Besides hampering climate research, the cuts would jeopardize satellite programs and other forecasting tools — as well as threaten the jobs of forecasters themselves. And they may undermine bipartisan legislation Trump himself signed earlier this year that mandates key steps to improve the nation’s ability to predict disasters before they happen.

Billy Raney and Donna Raney climb over the wreckage of what’s left of their apartment after Hurricane Harvey destroyed it on August 26, 2017 in Rockport, Texas. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

It’s hard to overstate how backward that seems after the hurricane season we’ve just witnessed, as well as the deadly wildfires in California, the climate-charged droughts and deluges and, well, you name it. Just when we need forecasting to be better than ever — and need our forecasters to be able to go even further, using those predictions in ways that protect people’s lives and livelihoods — the Trump administration wants to cut back?

Here’s how far we’ve come in forecasting: Three-day hurricane forecasts are now nearly as accurate as one-day forecasts were when Katrina struck 12 years ago. Even routine, “will it rain this weekend?” forecasts are better today than you probably realize. A 2015 paper in the journal Nature called the advancements a “quiet revolution,” both because they’ve gone relatively unnoticed by the general public, and because it’s been cheap. The National Weather Service, an agency of the U.S. government, costs taxpayers about $3 per person each year.

Still, knowing what the weather is going to do tomorrow and understanding how best to warn the public about potential risks are two different things. The first is all about physics; the other is about psychology, human behavior, social interaction, the built environment, and much more. You can guess which is easier.

Forecasts for Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall totals might have been stunningly accurate, but the floodwaters still surprised thousands of people. Days after Harvey’s rains ended, first responders in towns throughout southeast Texas were still rescuing families stranded by rising waters that flowed downstream toward the Gulf.

In the interest of saving lives, forecasters have started moving from simply predicting the weather to attempting to predict the consequences. Call it impact forecasting, an attempt to say what will happen after the rain hits the ground. Scientists hope to answer questions like: Where will water accumulate? Where will floodwaters head? How will it affect people?

The next step is using those “impact forecasts” to get people to safety. Researchers are working to build customized, real-time personal prediction tools that could tell people if their house is likely to flood, or how long they might go without power. There’s also a drive to create easier to understand warning systems, making better use of the latest communication tools and social media.

Besides getting people out of harm’s way, better warning systems could help by letting nonprofits seek donations in advance of a devastating storm, for instance, so they could provide relief more quickly. And they could help public officials do a better job of prepping for the worst.

Residents affected by Hurricane Maria wait in line for fuel donated by the Fuel Relief Fund in the municipality of Orocovis, outside San Juan, Puerto Rico. REUTERS / Shannon Stapleton

The need for this new branch of forecasting was highlighted during the height of Harvey’s rains, when the National Weather Service issued a bulletin that put the deluge in stark terms: “This event is unprecedented & all impacts are unknown & beyond anything experienced.”

“This was a good step forward,” says Kim Klockow, a meteorologist and behavioral scientist at the University of Oklahoma who supports the effort to develop impact forecasting. “It admitted something very important,” Klockow says — namely, that the system we have for warning people isn’t good enough.

In fact, experts say the best early-warning systems are ones that start years before the wind picks up and raindrops begin to fall, alerting people who live in vulnerable areas who might be prone to more threats in a climate-charged world.

Following Harvey, Klockow was named to a team of external scientists who will study the National Weather Service’s performance and look for ways to improve. They could start with better flood warnings, she says. “It’s like peering into a black box,” she says. “We give people almost nothing.”

In part, that’s a consequence of insufficient flood-zone maps. Even though rainstorms are getting more intense as the climate warms, FEMA sticks to historical flood data to determine which neighborhoods are required to purchase flood insurance — a policy that’s already leading to skyrocketing losses from floods. A recent study showed that 75 percent of the flood losses in Houston between 1999 and 2009 fell outside designated 100-year flood zones.

If residents don’t know their home is at risk of flooding, they’re less likely to consider that it might, even when a major storm is forecast. So it’s no surprise that, after floods, people report being caught by surprise.

How to keep them from getting surprised? Talk plainly.

There’s evidence that giving people unambiguous information can help move them to action. Recent research has shown that people often need to see the storm with their own eyes before they take cover. They need to see neighbors boarding up their houses before they do the same.

Read, the former National Hurricane Center director, says the same thing applies to him, despite his years of forecasting experience. “Most people, including myself if I’m really honest about it, are in denial that the bad thing will happen to you.”

Before Hurricane Katrina hit the New Orleans area in 2005, the National Weather Service issued a blunt statement that promised “certain death” should anyone be trapped outside unprotected. A post-storm analysis credited that warning with spurring an evacuation rate of more than 90 percent. Read says that’s why the Weather Service is shifting its focus toward making impending storms feel as real as possible to those in its path.

Forecasters need to “personalize the threat,” he says.

Klockow says that she’d like to see flood warnings take a personal approach, too. During a storm, an overlay in Google Street View could show you how high the water is rising in your neighborhood and re-route you away from flooded roads to get you home safely.

The tools to make that happen already exist. Several companies and local governments have already developed mapping tools that to warn of impending floods. North Carolina’s Flood Inundation Mapping and Alert Network relies on 500 measurement stations across the state that transmit their readings back to a central database. When conditions are ripe for flooding, the system’s software estimates possible consequences and alerts emergency managers.

This budding technology, integrated with databases of rescue supplies, could help FEMA figure out where to put aid and supplies before they’re needed.

Other organizations are working on an initiative called “forecast-based financing.” The idea is to allocate money for clearing out storm drains, as well as distributing first aid and water filtration systems, in the days ahead of a storm. Already tested in Uganda, Peru, Bangladesh and other countries, this innovation is now in the process of being scaled up worldwide. It could help organizations like the American Red Cross craft appeals for donations in advance, instead of relying on scenes of devastation after disaster strikes.


Ramon Sostre stands in front of his damaged house after Hurricane Maria destroyed the town’s bridge in San Lorenzo, Morovis, Puerto Rico. REUTERS / Shannon Stapleton

All of these efforts and ideas show a lot of promise. Yet even as forecasters have come to understand the importance of developing better advance-warning techniques, their ability to undertake those efforts is being undercut by a White House hostile to funding science.

Earlier this year, along with recommending that Congress gut funding for NOAA, President Trump proposed an 11 percent cut from the National Science Foundation’s budget, slashing funds from the institution behind much of the country’s basic scientific research. If Congress agrees, it would be the first budget cut in the foundation’s 67-year history.

At the National Weather Service, the Washington Post recently reported that the agency couldn’t fill 216 vacant positions as a result of a Trump-imposed hiring freeze. As a result, meteorologists were working double shifts when hurricane after hurricane hit last month and covering for each other from afar.

A forecast center in Maryland, for example, provided days of backup to the National Hurricane Center as hurricanes spun toward shore. National Weather Service meteorologists at the San Juan, Puerto Rico, office complained of “extreme fatigue.” Colleagues in Texas stepped in to give them breaks.

The threat of budget cuts is already crimping federally funded disaster research. A few days after Harvey struck Texas, the Colorado-based National Center for Atmospheric Research — one of the country’s top meteorological research institutions — cut entire sections of its staff focused on the human dimensions of disasters, including impact forecasting.

In an all-staff meeting on Aug. 30, the center’s director explained that the anticipation of tighter budgets forced the decision.

Antonio Busalacchi, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, which oversees the center, called the cuts “strategic reinvestments” in a statement to Grist. He said the money saved would be reallocated to “the priority areas of computer models, observing tools, and supercomputing.”

But researchers at the center, called NCAR, say the layoffs will hurt efforts to make forecasts more human-focused and effective.

“Our whole group was cut,” says Emily Laidlaw, an environmental scientist at NCAR, whose work focuses on understanding what puts people at risk from climate change and climate-related disasters. “I would absolutely say that these cuts make people less safe.”

Read, the former hurricane center chief, says increases in supercomputing power shouldn’t come at the expense of developing forecasts that work better for people.

“You can’t drop one for the other,” he says.

The cuts to the National Center for Atmospheric Research will result in the loss of 18 jobs. That may not sound like a lot, but consider that these were some of the only scientists in the United States working to prepare our country’s system for predicting disasters in an era of rapid change.

In that context, the recent revolution in meteorology and pitfalls in preparedness become a powerful metaphor: We know that if we stick to our current course, the future will be bleak. Acting on the forecast of a warmer planet in a way that helps us to usher in a safer and more prosperous future is completely possible, and the stakes keep getting higher.

One-third of the U.S. economy, some $3 trillion per year, is subject to fluctuations in the weather, and millions of people endure weather disasters every year — a number that keeps going up as climate change boosts the frequency and intensity of storms.

Despite excellent weather forecasts, hundreds of people have lost their lives, and billions of dollars in economic value have been lost during this year’s record-breaking hurricane season. In some especially hard-hit places, like Barbuda, Dominica, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, recovery will take years, or longer.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Get people out of a hurricane’s path, put aid workers and supplies in the right place, and a raging storm might not lead to a catastrophe.

We are living in a golden age for meteorology, but we haven’t yet mastered what really matters: knowing in advance exactly how specific extreme weather events are likely to affect our lives. Getting that right could usher in a new era of disaster prevention, rather than the current model of Disaster Response.
A Beacon in the Smog®

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Rescuers Come Together To Help The Animal Victims Of California’s Wildfires | Care2 Causes

By: Alicia Graef
October 20, 2017

About Alicia
Follow Alicia at @care2

As thousands of firefighters continue to battle wildfires blazing across California, rescuers are coming together to help save both companion and wild animals affected by the fires.

In Defense of Animals (IDA) has offered a harrowing glimpse into the situation with footage that shows horses being rescued from dark clouds of smoke.

 

“It was pretty scary, as the fires were right there, and they were moving fast,” said Nicole Otoupalik, an IDA rescuer seen in the video. “The poor horses were scared, too. It was amazing to see people just running to help the horses at Irvine Park. They didn’t have enough staff to evacuate the horses, and so members of the public who had come to get a look at the fire just started running back into the park to help lead the horses out. Strangers were just offering their time, trailers, and trucks to help get the animals out of there. Others in cars stopped to offer rides to help everyone get there more quickly.”

According to IDA, the horses were safely evacuated from Irvine Park to a grocery store parking lot, and were taken from there to an evacuation camp at the Orange County Fairground.

Evacuated Horse s OC Fairgrounds CREDIT In Defense of Animals_previewEvacuated horses at the Orange County Fairground. Credit: In Defense of Animals

The danger in Orange County is over, but many animals were injured and killed, and their homes have been destroyed, while many more are still at risk.

Evacuated Pigs OC Fairgrounds CREDIT In Defense of Animals_previewEvacuated pigs at the Orange County Fairground. Credit: In Defense of Animals

In an effort to help, IDA has teamed up with several local organizations to offer aid through its Disaster Relief Fund, including the Sonoma Humane Society, Lost Hearts & Souls Horse Rescue, Forget Me Not Farm, Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch, House Rabbit Society and the Otra Mas horse rescue.

Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch receives IDA aid CREDIT In Defense of Animals_previewJameson Animal Rescue Ranch. Credit: In Defense of Animals

Despite the heartbreaking losses of life and devastation, people are still coming together and using their time and resources to help some of the most vulnerable victims.

Lost Hearts and Souls Rescue receives IDA aid CREDIT In Defense of Animals_previewLost Hearts and Souls Horse Rescue. Credit: In Defense of Animals

These organizations are taking in a variety of animals who have been displaced by the fires and providing them with care, and some are working to reunite lost pets with their families, and provide services to pets for people who have been hit financially as a result of the fires.

Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue fire evacuated sheep 1 CREDIT In Defense of Animals_previewEvacuated sheep at the Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. Credit: In Defense of Animals
“5,700 homes and businesses are reported destroyed, with at least 41 confirmed human deaths and untold animal casualties. 217,000 acres have been consumed by the flames and wild animals have no choice but to simply run as fast as they can from the terrifying blazes consuming their homes. Tens of thousands have perished, and more are injured and need help,” IDA added in a statement.

“Many families forced to flee the burning onslaught had very little preparation or warning. Some barely made it out alive as they dashed to find and secure their animals. Now these family members – four-legged, winged or hoofed – must find shelter and hope for the best as 11,000 firefighters battle the blaze.”

For more on how to help support disaster relief efforts, check out In Defense of Animals.
Related on Care2:

http://www.care2.com/causes/rescuers-come-together-to-help-the-animal-victims-of-californias-wildfires.htm
Photo credit: In Defense of Animals
Copyright © 2017 Care2.com, inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved
Care2 Team Blog

Hurricanes keep bringing blackouts. Clean energy could keep the lights on. | Grist

Hurricanes keep bringing blackouts. Clean energy could keep the lights on.
By Amelia Urry on Sep 22, 2017

When Hurricane Irma scraped its way up the Florida peninsula, it left the state’s electrical grid in pieces. Between 7 million and 10 million people lost power during the storm — as much as half of the state — and some vulnerable residents lost their lives in the sweltering days that followed. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of electrical workers from around the country rushed to the Sunshine State to repair damaged substations, utility poles, and transmission lines.

But in Palm Coast, on Florida’s eastern seaboard, midway between Daytona and St. Augustine, Jim Walden never lost power. As he and his wife listened to debris clattering off their roof, 24 solar panels and 10 kilowatt hours of battery storage kept their lights on and their refrigerator cool. Over the ensuing days, as electric utilities struggled to return power to Florida’s storm-wracked communities, the only thing Walden and his wife missed was their air conditioner (which would have drained their batteries too quickly).

“It worked flawlessly,” Walden says of his solar-plus-storage system. “We had plenty of power for the fans to keep us cool and the lights when you walk into the bathroom at night. The wife would even run her hairdryer off of it.”

Walden’s setup — which draws power from the sun during the day and dispenses it at night, with or without the help of the grid — is an illustration of how we might reimagine our electrical system to be more modular, resilient, and renewable-powered. We’ve already been struggling with the question of how to build (or rebuild) our grids to better accommodate solar- and wind-generated energy. But this month’s run of record-making Atlantic hurricanes has made finding an answer — one that will help us better weather the storms of the coming century — even more urgent.

Questions about reliability have dogged renewable energy from the beginning. Simply put, when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing, you’re not getting any energy from those sources. Our grid, by contrast, is set up to provide constant, unwavering power around the clock. We’re only just starting to address the challenge of reconciling these two basic facts in one functional system. (Hint: The solution involves batteries). But according to a Department of Energy report, wind and solar power have not made the U.S. power grid less reliable, even as the amount of renewable energy loaded onto it has shot up.

But the grid is getting less reliable overall. Thanks to perpetual delays in updating old infrastructure, the United States sees more power outages per year than any other developed country — costing an annual $150 billion in lost productivity.

And it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. Even as Florida’s lights turn back on, the Atlantic keeps serving up hurricanes like Maria, which left all of Puerto Rico in darkness that could last as long as six months. Overall, the average number of annual weather-related power outages doubled from 2003 to 2012, a Climate Central report found.

One basic improvement the United States could make to its power grid is moving power lines from above-ground utility poles to protected underground conduits. This is how Germany rebuilt its grid after World War II, and now it suffers very few outages, says Blake Richetta, the U.S. VP for German clean-energy company sonnenBatterie. The country has fewer than 12 minutes of blackout per customer per year, compared to the 244 minutes that plague Americans.

But moving America’s 300,000 miles of transmission lines underground would be an epic investment of time and labor — just the sort of massive infrastructure project we’ve been putting off.

Florida utilities did invest in some storm-hardening of their power infrastructure in the past decade, replacing wooden poles with concrete ones and placing them closer together as a response to hurricane damage in 2004 and 2005. The state’s largest investor-owned utility, Florida Power & Light, spent $3 billion on improvements over the last decade, including an $800-million smart-grid project completed in 2013 with backing from the Department of Energy. The initiative involved deploying more than 4.5 million smart meters, sensors, and flood monitors, all networked together to give the utility real-time information on how power is moving around the grid.

Those moves helped lessen the damage Irma caused, according to Florida Power & Light CEO Eric Silagy. During the hurricane, several power substations were able to shut down when flooding monitors indicated equipment was at risk, saving the utility several days of work and possibly millions in equipment repair.

Still, Silagy’s company had to deploy around 20,000 workers in camps across the state to patch power plants and transmission lines in the days after the storm. And a utility spokesperson told ABC News that parts of the electrical grid on Florida’s west coast will require a “wholesale rebuild.”

“This is going to be a very, very lengthy restoration, arguably the longest and most complex in U.S. history,” VP of Communication Rob Gould said.

Clearly, Florida — and the rest of the country — still needs to do much more. And according to Jim Walden, it’s going to require a change in attitude for many Americans.

“It’s amazing to me that we live in the Sunshine State, and it’s hard to get people interested in solar power whatsoever,” he explains.

Walden himself got interested because he wanted to save money on his electric bill. Later, with the help of a $7,500 federal tax incentive, he installed his own battery storage to become more self-sufficient, especially during power outages.

The solutions to our collective energy troubles, however, will also need to be collective. One way that could look is scaling up from individual battery-powered homes to networked storage hubs that could act as regional power sources, flexibly responding to the changing demands of the grid.

As one urban resilience expert, Thaddeus Miller, told ProPublica, increasing the defenses of our cities and systems will require deeper changes than any we’ve embraced so far. “Fundamentally, we must abandon the idea that there is a specific standard to which we can control nature,” he said.

That means, for instance, changing the way we think about resilient infrastructure. Rather than working to prevent flooding at all times with high-investment levees and reservoirs, we could work to build facilities that are better at weathering flooding without being totally compromised. These “safe-to-fail” approaches would leave less of a mess after a storm blows through.

Because storms are going to blow through places like Florida, and they’re likely going to get stronger.

“We lose electricity quite often here, believe it or not — there are thunderstorms that can come up and knock power out,” Walden says. “Just to have electricity during those times is a great comfort.”

Hurricanes keep bringing blackouts. Clean energy could keep the lights on.