We have been so lucky this year but again, it could all change in a week’s time. There seems a great fear out there that last February’s disastrous event would happen this year. Reminds me of the terrified residents in the South Pacific after the devastating 2004, December 26th Tsunami. The slightest rumor for the entire next year would send thousands fleeing back up hillsides only to find it was solely driven by panic. The year that the US had one devastating hurricane after another -the news bureau’s began proclaiming the very next hurricane season would have a repeat of the same; instead it was a mild season. As devastating as these events are, they are rare and unpredictable. It doesn’t mean you put your life on hold and huddle in some 1950’s fallout shelter! The best way is to keep calm and be prepared for the next time.
The same goes with some devastating floods that struck Newburyport. They were called, ‘100-year’ storms; but they occurred within ten years of each other: 1996, 1999 and 2006. There were some that cited the Mother’s Day storm of 2006 as a 500 year storm. In other words, supposedly storms like these aren’t supposed to happen except once in a 100 or 500 year period. The last one caused extensive damage to the Custom House and other city structures.
So we’ve had some good years since then, but we need to be ready. Even with Newburyport’s extensive wetlands in the Common Pasture that have helped our city avoid the damage that other communities suffer; there can be a point where these open areas hit a saturation level. That’s when the industrial park and residential areas downriver begin to suffer property damage. Councilor Connell, who has extensive environmental training, took that seriously back then and now the city has an extensive Storm water Management Ordinance to help mitigate the impact in case we have one again.
Unfortunately, there is a growing source to increase flooding and it has been the commercial and residential buildup of Storey Avenue. Called ‘The Plains’ the level of impervious surfaces has grown considerably making the storm water runoff excessive. I was out on the nature trails this weekend on the Upper Common Pasture, and the grade up to Route 113 is such that the buildings look like castles and spires on Valhalla. All these precipitous heights has caused conduits to burst forth like fire hoses during these powerful storms.
I always wanted to take pictures of these powerful drains in action but the brambles and brush were so thick, I couldn’t get a clear photo. Thankfully, I discovered that Tropic Star has torn out the old conduits and stacked them neatly on the side and now has put in more up-to-date conduits with extensive rock fall to avoid erosion. These are, of course, not the only sources of run off – we have a major conduit that comes in from the Turkey Hill Road residential developments where the Little River actually is born; and a massive run off is generated by Mount Lavender. (i.e. the landfill) All these come together to produce prodigious amounts of water but by far the bowl effect of the Upper River just below the Plains is the primary source.
I look forward to take videos of these Hounds of Hell in full force the next time we do have another 100-year storm.
The Hound of Hell on the left
The Hound of Hell on the Right.