Looking at the devastation on Wednesday morning of New York City and the coastline, one cannot help but be amazed at how one of the most advanced cities in the world can be humbled in less than 24 hours by Hurricane Sandy. What is most amazing is that this was just a Category 1 hurricane, the least powerful of any hurricane. What would happen if a hurricane of Category 3 or 4, never mind 5, hit our cities? It conjures up visions of a nightmare scenario. Communities as close as Weston had to cancel their Halloween until Friday, as electricity was not fully restored until late last week.
While we in Boston were spared most of the horrors that other parts of the country experienced, we urge our public officials not to rest on their laurels, but to learn what happened in New York and try to prepare. Whether we are talking about bolstering the electric grid, testing firefighting drills or planning flood preparations, we need to be prepared. What happened in New York City can happen in Boston. Last March, Boston was plunged into chaos when an electric station in the Back Bay had a fire that caused a major blackout. There was no howling wind nor flood tide to contend with, but thousands of residents were left without power for days. As a matter of fact, electric crews are still working on the station.
Like many cities on the eastern coast, neighborhoods of Boston like the Back Bay and waterfront are built on reclaimed land. A tidal surge that hit New York City could have an equally disastrous effect on these neighborhoods.
If it can be done, it will cost hundreds of millions and years to build structures to protect these neighborhoods against Hurricanes and rising sea levels. Is there a faster and simpler solution such as to have buildings in the flood plain, both future and existing, to begin moving the mechanics to higher floor level rather than relegate them to the basement? One thing is certain, we will get hit by a severe hurricane someday and sea levels are rising fast. Some planning now should ensure better preparedness later.