King Tide and storm surge meet in Wells. “We were, pun intended, in over our heads, but the Wells Reserve staff helped us read the data and predict when the high waters were going to recede so we could get our equipment back into affected areas,” says Wells Fire Chief Vetre. Photo courtesy Peter Hough, Riptides Gift Shop.
January’s “bomb cyclone” hit many of our East Coast Reserves hard. As Wells Reserve Director Paul Dest noted, “In my 17 years at the reserve, this was the most challenging winter storm.”
For those who don’t live in Maine, that’s what you call Yankee understatement. Storm surge on top of a King Tide led to significant flooding in southern Maine’s coastal towns. The Wells Reserve’s monitoring station logged near record tidal heights of 13.4 feet—including two feet of storm surge—that remained almost two hours past the predicted high tide.
According to Wells System Wide Monitoring Program specialist Jeremy Miller, “Barometric pressure really crashed out during this one, reaching 28.9” of mercury and wind gusts near 40 mph—a low of pressure usually associated with Category 3 and 4 hurricanes!”
This chart plots the bomb cyclone’s unceasing wind (blue) against plummeting barometric pressure (brown).
During the January 4th blizzard, Miller stayed on the phone with local Wells Fire Chief Wayne Vetre to help him and other members of the Wells Emergency Management Authority (EMA) track storm conditions to better forecast the substantial flooding.
On this tidal graph, the blue line is “predicted tide” and the red line was actual water levels.
“We were, pun intended, in over our heads with the tide prediction, but the Wells Reserve staff helped us read the data and predict when the high waters were going to recede so we could get our equipment back into affected areas,” said Wells Fire Chief Vetre. “It worked out so well—their monitoring and expertise and predictive ability have just been so helpful in our emergency management.”
As Maine sea levels rise and the state experiences more extreme weather events like this one, the Wells Reserve is also helping beach-based businesses plan for the future. These businesses are a powerful economic engine for Maine, but proprietors are often unprepared for storm surge and coastal flooding.
The Wells Reserve’s Coastal Training Program is transferring the Gulf of Mexico’s Tourism Resilience Index to Southern Maine to help coastal businesses assess their ability to maintain operations during and after a disaster.
You can catch Annie Cox’s presentation about this important work at this year’s Social Coast. And, to appreciate how the different parts of a reserve work together to weather a storm with panache, read Scott Richardson’s piece in The Wrack. You may want to subscribe to the Wells Reserve’s excellent newsletter while you’re at it!