While Boston managed to narrowly escape excessive flooding to major neighborhoods during the brunt of Superstorm Sandy, sustaining only minimal damage in the extreme October weather, experts said on Tuesday that in the coming years, the Hub might not be so lucky.
“Had Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge hit Boston five and a half hours earlier at high tide, instead of at low tide, the city would have experienced a ‘100-year coastal flood,’ that could have flooded approximately 6 percent of its land area,” according to a new study from the Boston Harbor Association, a non-profit group that advocates for clean city harbors.
The group’s report, called “Preparing for the Rising Tide,” said if similar storms sweep the coast in the future, certain areas of Boston would be at high risk of flooding, due to changes in the climate and atmosphere.
“Some neighborhoods in Boston are more susceptible to flooding than others. For example, portions of the downtown historic wharves and the neighborhood around Fort Point Channel already flood several times per year during extra-high, full- and new-moon high tides,” according to the report.
The report claims that current climate models predict Boston will see a two-foot sea level rise by 2050, and up to a six foot rise by 2100.
Some of the key areas in the Hub that could be adversely impacted by a treacherous storm would be Logan Airport, the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, the Seaport World Trade Center and the Conley container port terminal. Properties like the New England Aquarium, Harvard Stadium and the Bayside Expo Center would also take a hit, according to experts.
The MBTA’s Aquarium station, which is only 2.5 feet above today’s average high tide, could also potentially flood.
The advocacy group recommended raising the station’s entrance in the coming years.
Beyond that, 30 percent of Boston’s dry land would see significant flooding in the event of a “100-year-storm,” with East Boston experiencing the most extensive damages.
Researchers who compiled the data and information about potential storm impacts said the report is meant to help “assess vulnerability and increase resilience to coastal flooding over time.”
On the same day the report was released, Mayor Thomas Menino met with reporters by the Harbor, at the New England Aquarium, and issued a statement saying the city will be proactive about potential flood disasters. Menino unveiled additional planning and policy initiatives to keep the Hub safe from rising tides, including convening a Cabinet level Climate Preparedness Task Force to review climate change preparedness activities.
Menino said these updated plans, which will take place over the next six months, will “better prepare Boston for Sandy-like storms” and other effects of climate change.
He said the city will begin surveying preparedness of all buildings and other assets, like T stations, likely to be impacted by severe storms.
“This report shows us where we stand and what more we need to do in preparing for the effects of climate change and rising sea levels in Boston,” Menino said in a statement prior to the event Tuesday. “I look forward to the work ahead with Boston residents, our business community, and The Boston Harbor Association, as we continue to make Boston as resilient as possible.”
Congressman Ed Markey, who recently threw his hat in the race for the U.S. Senate seat, has been at the forefront of the climate change issues in Massachusetts for quite some time.
Tuesday’s report highlighted some suggestions for the city to consider in the coming years, to deal with the adverse effects of flooding, and the anticipation of rising tides in Boston’s harbor areas.
The group, like Menino, said in the report that city leaders and advocacy groups need to work with residents and businesses to mitigate the potential problem.
“Neither the public sector nor the private sector alone has the resources and influence necessary to prepare Boston for increased coastal flooding over time,” the report said. “We need a robust public-private partnership with clear benchmarks and engagement from all sectors to prepare this extraordinary historic city for the rising tide.”
Whiles Boston does a lot to address the issues already, some suggestions in the report included:
- Identifying the elevations at which flood-prone buildings and infrastructure are at risk.
- Identifying property-specific vulnerabilities to flooding.
- Developing cost-effective measures to increase vulnerable properties’ resilience.
- Pursuing an integrated strategy to maximize the resilience of Boston’s most sensitive populations, neighborhoods and infrastructure.