Peggotty Beach and Kent Street marshes are overrun by coastal flooding during a midday high tide on 4 March 2018. Photo: Karl Swenson / SKYWARN Spotter

By Andrew MacFarlane
1 August 2018

(The Weather Company) – Waves crest up to 27 feet, landing so hard they launch over three-story houses. Winds gust to over 80 mph, sending trees to the ground and knocking out power to 92 percent of the city. Entire beaches push inland, piling several feet of rock and sand onto roads and covering street signs, porches and mailboxes. Houses shake, sloshing water in toilet bowls. Slabs of concrete from sidewalks and neighborhood sheds float down the street as white-capped waves form on the streets.

“There’s only two times I’ve ever been nervous for my family and for my safety,” says Scituate, Massachusetts, resident Steve Maguire.

This is one of them, and it’s only getting worse as the clock passes midnight and darkness complicates an already terrifying reality.

The people of Scituate fight well into the night to save homes, businesses and lives from the barrage of water coming inland. Because of a monstrous nor’easter, coastal Massachusetts becomes part of the ocean.

“There’s a howl in the wind, a deep, guttural howl in the wind that you only hear in the most severe storms,” Maguire says. “That first storm in March, in the middle of the night, I remember opening the door and yelled up to my wife and I said, ‘Jess, there’s the howl! I can hear it!’

“I knew at that point this was not like other storms.”

What was left behind after the early March nor’easter is described as a war zone by some.

“We say it all the time: ‘It’s an amazing place to live 360 days a year’,” said Maguire, a meteorology teacher of 17 years at the local high school. “Then five other days you have no idea what’s going to happen.”

In a dizzying three weeks, four nor’easters slammed this area last winter. Two of the four powered tides high enough to claim the No. 1 and No. 3 spots on Boston’s record tide list. By the time they were done blasting several states, two of the storms would cause more than $1 billion in damage each and claim 31 lives. Tides produced by Blizzard of ‘78 and the No Name/Perfect Storm of ’91 were taken down a peg by storms that didn’t leave nearly the level of devastation.

Residents interviewed by shortly after the nor’easters know that such damage will become more frequent as climate change fuels more intense storms and rising seas. In 2017, extreme weather affected more than 25 million Americans and displaced more than 2.5 million from their homes. Soon, it could reshape this area. The storms of winter 2018 have left some residents wondering how much longer they’ll stay. […]

Ranked snowstorms impacting the Northeast U.S., 1958-2018. Graphic: Rebecca Pollock / The Weather Company

Peggotty Beach: “Gone”

Travel south on Front Street, Scituate’s main avenue through downtown, follow the traffic circle toward Edward Foster Road and you’ll arrive at Peggotty Beach. Peggotty is a barrier beach sandwiched between the second and third cliffs of the four cliffs locals identify along the coast. It bows inland ever so slightly. To get to Peggotty, you have to take a right into a low-lying parking lot surrounded by dunes and marshland.

Looking at Peggotty from either ends of the jutting cliffs you could almost describe the steep, sandy beach as Malibu-like and not a place you would associate with some of the winter storms’ worst damage. Waves between a shade of green and blue roll onto a shore populated with uniquely shaped houses. The breeze blows in steady and calm. Both cliffs are lined with hillside homes and winding roads.

But what you aren’t seeing is that this seemingly picture-perfect scene is really one of destruction and near desertion even weeks after the last nor’easter last hit the area in March.

What gives it away is the Inner Harbor Road street sign. The green and white metal sign is almost buried in sand and rock, the result of the ocean pushing the beach inland, through homes and over the street.

Once this clicks in your mind, you’ll see the dismal sight that is Peggotty Beach. Houses on stilts are now almost flush with a bed of sand 5 to 6 feet deep. Debris and ravaging wind tore off decks and covered staircases in sand so high they have only five steps instead of 15.

“One of the particular homes … that was a full blow-through had never had damage like that in the 52 years that the homeowner had been there,” says Maguire, the resident fearful for his family during the March storm. “There’s no doubt the damage is getting worse.”

Go toward the ocean from the houses along Inner Harbor Road and you’ll find two alien-like homes that tower some 15 feet above the steep stretch of sand. The stilt homes are the last of their kind in Scituate on the beach. They’re the remaining two of about 30 homes that once stood along the street that were blasted by storms, namely the Blizzard of ’78 and the No Name/Perfect Storm of ’91, and consumed by the ocean.

“Directly straight out in front of (the stilt houses) was a paved road, 15 houses on the one side, 15 on the other,” said Maguire.

“Gone,” he adds. “Out to sea or in the marsh and then never rebuilt.” [more]

Whole Town Faces Uncertain Future – This town could soon be wiped off the map.



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