When the muddy water raced down the hill, tearing up streets and filling basements, spilling brown sludge into Lake Superior’s June waters, Duluth learned for real what climate change means. It means storm events like the flood of 2012 will be more frequent in the future—and more severe. The extent of the damage caught a lot of people off guard. “They said Duluth couldn’t flood,” the handwritten sign in a video game store’s window proclaimed. “Sale on all games about boats.”
When events like this happen, the people who are hardest hit are the ones who were having the hardest time to begin with. Jeanette’s life had changed in the blink of an eye in December of 2008 due to a devastating motorcycle accident. Recovery was slow and painful, finances were already difficult…and then the flood hit. “I had this feeling of no longer having a cushion in the world,” she said.
Jeanette had already lost enough. Now the flood damage was threatening what she had left. Neither she nor her social worker, Penny, had any idea initially how to deal with the damage or whether there might be any funds available in this situation. Eventually, though, they connected with Ecolibrium3’s flood recovery program. Jeanette found funding and contractors to replace her broken mechanicals with new, energy-efficient models. The water heater was a particularly miraculous transformation. “When they replaced it,” she recalls, “they actually cut it open. They said they’d never seen a water heater like it—it was literally half full of sediment.”
Anything would have been an improvement over the ruined water heater, but the goal of the flood recovery program was to replace these devices with better ones than homeowners had had to start with—ones that would save energy, making them less expensive to run and reducing their environmental impact. That means that homeowners such as Jeanette could save money on their heat and electricity bills all while helping turn the tide of the climate change that was such a huge factor in the flood to begin with.
When times get tough, people like Jeanette get tougher. That’s Duluth energy for you.