Our week-long series, “Are We Ready?,” examines hurricane preparedness on Cape Cod and the Islands. It’s a collaboration between WCAI and the Cape Cod Times. On Day One, Times reporters Doug Fraser and Geoff Spillane examine the potential for catastrophic devastation, particularly from storm surge, and why the moderate hurricane outlook this year should not be a reason for complacency.
Preparing for the worst
Cape Cod may not be ready for the next hurricane - and the storm surge that comes with it
By Doug Fraser
BUZZARDS BAY — Standing in the open door of the garage at her Taylors Point home, Maureen Laureano watched workers brush bluestone into the seams of the paver blocks in her driveway.
The 15-foot ceiling of her outsized garage soared overhead, tall enough to accommodate the cab of a tractor-trailer. The garage occupies the entire first floor, vaulting her home high above surrounding residences. All the utilities — the heating system, water heater, major appliances — are in the living quarters, ostensibly out of reach of storm-driven seas.
“I’m not worried,” Laureano said.
During a hurricane, wind damage from downed trees, and power outages, get a lot of attention, mainly because there are more people living inland than in waterfront properties exposed to the ocean’s fury. But in the sea level neighborhoods that line the East Coast, storm surge is the quiet killer, responsible for the majority of hurricane-related deaths and property damage.
“The one thing that keeps me up at night is a Category 3 landfall on Rhode Island driving a storm surge up Buzzards Bay,” said David Vallee, hydrologist-in-charge for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/National Weather Service Northeast River Forecast Center in Norton. “The potential for damage and loss of life is high there.”
No one currently alive has seen that nightmare scenario play out, he said.
And it’s unclear if anyone is ready for it.
'A matter of timing'
Forecasts call for quiet hurricane season, emergency planner warns against complacency
By Doug Fraser
By Geoff Spillane
BARNSTABLE — Will 2018 be the year that another Hurricane Bob or even Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635 takes aim at Cape Cod and the Islands?
Last week, in what has become a rite of summer at the Barnstable County Complex, local meteorologists Philip Burt and Frank O’Laughlin discussed updated forecasting for this year’s hurricane season.
To the 50 or so members of the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee in attendance, it was a mix of good news and a hearty “good luck”: It will likely be a quieter than normal season and much quieter than last year, but there is no way to predict the intensity or track of the storms that form in the Atlantic.
It was a clear message that the Cape and Islands, despite the forecast, shouldn’t be complacent.
Burt, who also serves as Barnstable County’s emergency preparedness project specialist, cited forecast data from Colorado State University, an unlikely hot spot for hurricane monitoring.
“They have been doing it for a very long time and are very good at it,” he said Friday.
The university’s Tropical Meteorology Project predicts there will be 11 named storms in 2018, four of them becoming hurricanes and one of those becoming a major hurricane.