Preparing Erie For Extreme Weather: What to do and Where to Start? 

This project was made possible through a grant obtained by Pennsylvania Sea Grant from the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences and Assessments program (GLISA) as well as support through NOAA and Erie Insurance.

The goal was to build a foundation for adaptation and resilience work in Erie by walking municipalities and community groups through the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit’s “Steps to Resilience” Framework. This process is designed to help Erie better recover from severe weather and more frequently occurring extreme weather events. It worked to identify and prioritize the greatest risks to Erie municipalities and brainstorm action strategies needed to become more resilient and better prepared.

Watch the video below to learn more about each of the steps in this process.

 A white paper summarizing the Preparing Erie For Extreme Weather Project can be found here

CRANE Framing Document_Final_reduced.pdf

Step 1: Explore Hazards

Step 1 was broken up into two distinct parts to gather information about Erie's climate hazards. 

Downscaled climate data:
Pennsylvania Sea Grant and CRANE worked closely with GLISA to compile downscaled historical and projected climate information data specific for Erie County. This data includes information on temperatures, precipitation, ice cover, and lake levels. 

Erie Extreme Weather Survey:
The Erie Extreme Weather survey was designed to gauge the Erie community’s perceptions, experiences, and concerns surrounding extreme weather events. It  identified key weather impacts and captured anecdotal accounts of how extreme weather is directly impacting Erie’s residents.  A summary of survey results can be found in "Understanding Erie's Level of Preparedness for Coastal Flooding and Other Weather Disasters" document. 

Erie CRI update_8_22_22A.pdf

Step 2: Assess Vulnerabilities and Risk 

Pennsylvania Sea Grant and CRANE  partnered with New York Sea Grant to adapt New York’s Coastal Resilience Index (CRI) tool for Erie. This tool provides community leaders with a simple and inexpensive method of predicting if their community will reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning after weather disasters. 

The Erie County CRI consists of six sections, including critical infrastructure and facilities, transportation, community plans and agreements, mitigation measures, business plans, and social systems. Upon completion of each section, a resilience index score is calculated, allowing the sections to be classified as low, medium, or high resilience.   

How it Works 

Fill out the Assessment 

Analyze Results

Plan for Action 

Municipalites that participated in the Vulnerability Assessment

The City of Erie

Fairview Township

Girard Township

Harborcreek Township

Millcreek Township

North East Boro

Springfield Township 

Themes that arose included a generally low resilience score for critical infrastructure during heavy rains and high winds (over 78% of municipalities shared these concerns), and critical facilities during blizzards (57% of municipalities shared this concern).

Another theme that arose during the CRI assessment was specific concern over Erie’s power grid and aging power infrastructure.

Transportation issues, including any impacts or disruption to roads, bridges, evacuation routes, and snowplows, as well as the physical capacity to move residents in times of emergencies were also top concerns.


Step 3: Investigate Options

To help foster thoughtful consideration and discussion about extreme weather needs and recommendations, PASG partnered with GLISA to hold a scenario planning workshop for municipal staff. The workshop was held on October 12, 2022, at the Millcreek Township Municipal Building in Erie, PA, and was attended by 14 borough and township supervisors, environmental health and planning, public safety officials, and other municipal leaders from 10 different Erie municipalities.

The goal of this workshop was to develop scenarios to help plan for a future with weather and climate conditions that will likely look different than what has been experienced in the past.

To read about this workshop and its results in more detail, view the Scenario Planning Workshop Summary Document.

Step 4: Prioritize and Plan!

Implementing all the resilience projects in one community at one time is impossible; therefore, prioritizing the most beneficial, cost-efficient, and timely actions is essential.

Using results from the scenario planning workshop and feedback from community members, CRANE released a survey in June, 2023 asking community members to prioritize 15 possible implementation projects that would best address resilience challenges identified in earlier steps of this process. 

Step 5: Take Action!

Implementation involves compiling the prioritized action strategies and recommendations and incorporating them into existing planning processes. CRANE partnered with the Erie County Hazard Mitigation Plan 5-year update team to incorporate the results from this project into the 2023 Erie County Hazard Mitigation Plan