Following the Tri-Town flooding caused by the remnants of Hurricane Ida and a near miss from Hurricane Henri, Marion released a draft of her risk mitigation plan, which has been in the works for months. .
The plan details the potential effects of a major storm on the city and what residents can do to protect their homes from flooding and storm damage.
The plan was developed with the Woods Hole Group and is similar in nature to a coastal resilience plan released by Mattapoisett in 2016. A major difference, however, is that Mattapoisett’s 2016 plan primarily focuses on risks associated with coastal infrastructure. the city, where Marion’s plan takes into account the effect of a major storm on the entire city.
Plans like these, say city officials and local experts, are vital when – not if – a major storm hits Tri-Town.
“It’s not a question of whether it’s going to happen – it’s just a question of when,” said Jennifer Francis, a native of Marion and climate scientist.
She said a storm of the same intensity as the last hurricane to hit the region, Hurricane Bob in 1991, would likely cause much more destruction now due to factors such as rising sea levels.
In Mattapoisett, there are signs pointing to the tallest water lines caused by Hurricane Bob. At Town Beach, the marker reaches the height of the chain link fence surrounding the beach, about four feet from the ground.
“It’s going to be even worse now,” Francis said, in towns like Marion and Mattapoisett. She added that Rochester would likely be saved from the worst effects of a storm like Hurricane Bob.
Marion’s Risk Mitigation Plan details the relative risks to the city from a wide variety of natural hazards ranging from the very likely – such as severe weather and coastal erosion – to statistically unlikely – such as earthquakes. land and tsunamis.
The plan not only ranks each natural disaster based on its likelihood, but also based on its potential severity and whether its effects would be localized in small areas or felt throughout the city.
According to the plan, severe winter conditions, hurricanes and tropical storms are the greatest natural hazard to the Marion because they are each rated “probable”, “potentially serious” (or even “catastrophic” in extreme cases), and threaten the whole city. also.
The second most dangerous event is flooding which is “likely” and would cause significant damage, although its risk score is mitigated by the fact that its effects would be mostly isolated from the coast and low lying areas.
For example, much of Marion’s Point Road area is expected to be completely inundated with flooding if a severe storm hits the city in 2070, virtually ensuring that Great Hill would be cut off from the rest of the city. By 2030, the first projection given by the plan, there would be about a 5% annual chance that Great Hill would become a temporary island.
“People need to realize this is a projection,” said Eileen Marum, a member of Marion’s planning board and a member of the risk mitigation plan team. “It’s an attempt to give people information on what to expect.”
She said one of the most important things families can do to prepare for storms is to prepare an evacuation plan, especially in the Point Road and Converse Road areas.
“They should think about the quickest route to safety,” Marum said.
In addition, Marum said residents should pay close attention to the advice of the fire and police services during a natural disaster, and that it is vital that these services remain operational during a storm.
“That’s where the communication will come from,” she said.
The national storm surge risk maps used in the Marion plan indicate that many areas of Marion and Rochester are at risk for storm surges nine feet above the ground in the event of a Category One hurricane. . If a stronger hurricane hits the region, the projections are even more dire. A storm surge projected over nine feet for a Category Four hurricane reached far north of I-195 at Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester.
Francis said tropical storms and hurricanes are a big concern for the Tri-Town as they get bigger and intensify faster.
“We are looking at a narrower possibility of a big hurricane,” she said.
Francis said the best way to tackle the worst effects of a big storm now is to make sure the public is fully aware of the potential risks.
“They have hair on the back of their necks standing,” she said.
But, Francis noted, there is a “silver lining” that comes with a higher frequency of national disasters not only on the east coast, but across the country.
“This is the opportunity to really grab people’s attention,” she said. “And let them know that climate change is here today.”