Which brings me to my point: While I'm sure weather emergencies can be handled better or worse, if the weather is crazy enough, the government-quality signal gets drowned out by the weather signal. Cities were built with certain tolerance levels in mind, certain climactic baselines, and if you go outside of them, everyone looks terrible because they're pulling levers of power and control that are not commensurate with the task they need to fix.
Let's use the floodplain as a metaphor. People tend to build where a flood may happen every once in a long while, but not where a flood happens every couple of years. That just makes sense, and there's a whole institutional framework that exists around making that happen. But what if the baseline changes? Suddenly the place that used to flood (or get deeply snowed in or run out of water) once every 50 years starts getting hit once every 10 years. It's not that human beings couldn't build a system that would allow them to live in that place, but that the system they need is not the one they have. And the system they'd need is also going to be a lot more expensive than they bargained for.
The same goes for snow. If you're a mayor, you could have X number of plows and plow operators and different kinds of anti-snow legions. You could pump money into making sure you had a truly resilient system that could beat any type of storm. Or you could fix the roads and keep up the sewers. Or you could raise taxes and do it all but cost yourself politically. Under those circumstances, most mayors have favored efficiency and lower taxes over resilience at the extreme ends of the weather spectrum. Why prepare for a day that may never come? Why plan for a once-a-decade event when you've got people in your ear about things that need fixing tomorrow (or yesterday).
But that calculation might start flipping. Because what mayors need to do is restructure their cities, not engage in last-minute heroics a la Cory Booker. (Although let's be honest, his use of Twitter was pretty awesome, politically and otherwise.) One of the most solid predictions of climate change is an increase in extreme weather events. In fact, such an increase has already been observed. And while you can't link any individual event directly to greenhouse gas emissions, the trend exists.
Here's the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's response from their FAQ:
Q: Are Extreme Events, Like Heat Waves, Droughts or Floods, Expected to Change as the Earth's Climate Changes?
A: Yes; the type, frequency and intensity of extreme events are expected to change as Earth's climate changes, and these changes could occur even with relatively small mean climate changes. Changes in some types of extreme events have already been observed, for example, increases in the frequency and intensity of heat waves and heavy precipitation events.
But all that is dry, technocratic talk. What you need to know is that your city -- pretty much wherever it is -- was built for a climate that it may no longer have. That's going to mean tough commutes during the winter and spending more money on air conditioning in the summer. It's going to mean that your city shuts down more often because some freaky thing happened that no one can remember happening in their lifetimes. It's going to mean the power's going to go out because the electric system in your area wasn't designed to handle the stresses it will be put under. Cities will have to get less efficient and more resilient. Redundancies will have to be built into systems that previously seemed to work just fine.