Every season comes with its own set of challenges. The maddening summer sun or the merciless fall winds are all characteristic of the arrival and departure of the seasons. But, this winter has been arguably more memorable than others, for all the wrong reasons.
For the past few weeks, the Bay Area and California experienced an intense series of storms and lightning. Torrential rain and hail cascaded into mudslides, forcing Berkeley residents to evacuate their homes. Despite the promising signs of fading clouds and rays of beaming light, threats to safety due to these unpredictable weather conditions have yet to subside.
These recent occurrences of extreme weather only cement the urgency to be readily prepared for when these events happen.
During this intense weather, it is imperative to consider the individuals in Berkeley that are most vulnerable and exposed to them. The city’s houseless population cannot properly protect itself from the unrelenting storms. Commuting students who navigate saturated, slippery roads on their way to class should not be forced to choose between school and safety.
Resources such as the opening of and funding for more emergency shelter homes to ensure the safety of houseless populations during these times must be easily accessible. Protecting all individuals residing in Berkeley should not be an afterthought, but a priority.
The Basic Needs Center on campus and the Dorothy Day House offer resources that can be utilized during these climate crises. For students who are part of the CalFresh program, the Basic Needs Center offers replacement benefits to individuals who experienced food loss. The Dorothy Day House aims to provide free shelter from November to April for all referred houseless people.
On campus, flexible accommodations for those unable to be on campus must be offered. Campus has developed multiple guides on providing academic accommodation, but faculty must urgently work to implement solutions during a weather crisis, even if that means temporarily shifting lectures or discussion sections online or allowing leeway for missed attendance.
There is no doubt that the city has made some progress in attempting to navigate weather emergencies, such as adopting the Local Hazard Mitigation Plan and creating the Disaster and Fire Safety Commission. The Community Wildfire Protection Plan accepts input from Berkeley residents to help the city outline the approach to managing wildfire risk.
Nevertheless, it is imperative that we don’t lose urgency and continue to emphasize the importance of being prepared for all future weather conditions in the face of our changing climate. Though this string of storms may have passed, it is vital that the next is met with an abundance of resources and accommodations necessary to protect students and residents.