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Blizzard of 2013 Reworks Massachusetts Coastlines

Erosion underway at Cold Storage Beach in Dennis on Saturday, February 9th, 2019.
Greg Berman
Woods Hole Sea Grant

The Nor'easter that slammed New England this weekend packed hurricane-force winds and dumped as much as three feet of snow in some places. In addition to knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses around southeastern Massachusetts, the storm reworked coastlines around the region. Twenty to thirty foot waves and a four foot storm surge piled on top of astronomically high tides to produce widespread coastal flooding and erosion.

Initial estimates are that the bluffs at Cape Cod National Seashore have lost 10-20 feet, exposing an ancient cedar swamp. On Plum Island, north of Boston, the estimates are closer to forty feet of sand lost. What came to the surface there was old rip-rap that few knew had even been put there.

A new break in the dunes at Ballston Beach on the Provincetown/Truro line has connected the Atlantic Ocean to Pamet River and Cape Cod Bay. Nantucket and the north-facing shore of Cape Cod Bay were also hit hard. In contrast, south-facing Cape Cod beaches and Martha's Vineyard appear to have largely dodged a bullet.

And while NStar says it could be Thursday before everybody has power restored, restoring coastlines will take much longer, if it happens at all.

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