HULL (CBS) – Many storms bring feet of snow to New England but few bring the type of coastal devastation we saw during the Blizzard of ’78.
The destruction along our shoreline was unimaginable and the memories still remain fresh in the minds of residents that went through it.
Jim Barry was a teenager when the powerhouse storm demolished parts of his family’s home along Gun Rock Beach in Hull.
“The Blizzard of ’78 is the first storm that ever did any major damage to the house. I mean it totally wrecked the house,” he told WBZ-TV.
His mother Barbara recounted the damage to their porch.
“From underneath the waves came and took it right off – the roof and all,” she said.
The Barrys said their neighborhood looked like a war zone. Three houses away from them, a four-family house collapsed and fell into the ocean, and they weren’t allowed to build back up again.
But the Barry family could, and did, rebuild. Jim’s dad and uncles redesigned the porch, poured concrete, and spent the entire spring and summer of 1978 hammering nails with their kids.
“I’m sure if we hadn’t done all this work on the house, that storm the other day would have demolished the rest of the house,” Jim said.
This January’s blizzard showed us that we can have flooding rivaling that from the Blizzard of ’78.
In fact, some tidal gauges reached record levels on January 4, 2018.
The big difference in 1978 was the duration of the storm, with flooding persisting for several high tide cycles.
U.S. Geological Survey researcher Dr. Erika Lentz warns that our coast will see more major impacts in the decades to come.
“We got a glimpse of what the future shoreline could look like with that storm. We could be looking at 11 feet of sea level rise if the Antarctic ice sheet collapse proceeds along the trajectory it’s going,” she told WBZ.
Lentz said that some of the greatest sea level rise predictions across the county are for right here in the northeast, and we are not prepared.
“This is going to be a huge, multifaceted, very complicated problem. We have some time right now to have productive conversations. But it’s much better to act now than it is down the line when we’re facing some really dire circumstances,” Lentz said.
The Barrys home has been in their family for 80 years and they say no matter what happens, they’ll build it back up again.
“It’s worth all the aggravation you have to go through because in between, it’s heaven,” Barbara said.
We can estimate what the flooding would be like today, given the storm surge from the Blizzard of 1978 and the sea level rise we’ve seen since then.
The map is pretty eye opening and shows just how vulnerable both the city and our entire coastline is.