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Solar for safety: Two groups proposing panel-equipped ‘resilience hubs’ for shelters during weather emergencies

Drenching rains.

Paralyzing bouts of cold and snow — followed by record-breaking high temperatures the next week, or the next day, even.

Lashing rains and winds that generate the funnel and vortex of the occasional F-0 tornado.

Climate change brings an extreme meteorological calling card — but two advocacy groups in our region are linking up in an attempt to help people weather the storm at least a little better, as they mop up or dig out after the onslaught.

Solar United Neighbors is a national group that has long lobbied for alternate energy causes.

And Reimagine Appalachia is a grassroots coalition doing the same.

It’s made up of more than 200 activists and industry leaders from all walks working to help the region transition to a new economy, including solar and other forms of alternative energy, as coal resources dwindle.

The two right now, as said, have that shared, elemental mission.

Both want to create what they call “resilience hubs,” by outfitting churches with solar panels and the battery power that comes with them — among other places where people also gather — in order to offer up another layer of safe, comfortable shelter for the people going through such climate events.

Both will host a forum to explain how at noon Thursday on Zoom.

“Shelter in the Storm: Re-Imagining Resiliency for your Communities and Congregations” is the name of the virtual event.

Here’s the link to register:

The gathering will include presentations by facilitators from Solar United Neighbors and Reimagine Appalachia.

David Ortiz, who directs Solar United endeavors in Puerto Rico, will talk about his organization’s work after the Category 5 Hurricane Maria fatally swamped the island in 2017, killing more than 3,000 by the time it was all done.

“In Puerto Rico, houses of worship as resiliency hubs are an essential tool for keeping their neighbors alive during a life-threatening weather event,” he said.

“We learned a lot after Hurricane Maria and want to share these lessons to prevent it from happening again, while turning churches into beacons of hope and strength.”

What meteorology and its economic ripples means to life in the mountains of West Virginia and its neighbors will be discussed by Autumn Long, who directs the Appalachian Solar Finance Fund.

“Appalachian communities, many of which are still struggling from the transition away from coal, need our help and support in the clean energy transition,” she said.

“We can help them turn to clean energy while protecting themselves from global warming at the same time.”

The gathering comes at the same time House Bill 5528 is awaiting Gov. Jim Justice’s signature. The measure will allow the state’s two regulated utilities, AEP and FirstEnergy, to enhance their solar power capabilities.

Warming — global or otherwise — continues to be a theme in West Virginia’s daily weather report.

AccuWeather is calling for a possible record-temperature high of 70 today in Morgantown. Normal highs across north-central West Virginia in March run in the mid-50s, the forecaster said.

Meanwhile, AccuWeather also reports that a storm system that recently dumped several feet of snow in Colorado is now churning across the country — bringing with it the possibility of heavy rain and threat of tornados to the Southeast through the weekend.

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