Study: Could Harbor ‘Gates' Help Boston During Hurricanes?

Hurricane Harvey may have touched down nearly 2,000 miles away, but researchers have often wondered if a storm of that caliber could occur in the Bay State.

“I think one of our challenges is to figure out how we prepare ourselves for a Harvey of the future,” said David Cash, one of the deans of the UMass Boston Sustainable Solutions Lab.

The university is working with the city to study how Boston can protect itself. A storm like Harvey could cause major problems for the MBTA, the tunnels, Logan Airport, as well as take a heavy toll on the lowest-lying neighborhoods that could be inundated.

“Areas like Back Bay, parts of the Financial District, Seaport, East Boston, those are all areas that would be quite vulnerable,” said Cash.

Of the many possibilities considered is a hurricane barrier which are like massive gates in the harbor that could hold back a huge storm surge.

“There’s no amount of urban planning you can do, but you can lessen the effect with good flood control strategies,” said Noah Snyder, an associate professor at Boston College.

Snyder, who focuses on earth and environmental sciences, expects to see more extreme rainfall events in the future.

“No city in the world can manage 40 or 50 inches of rain coming over in less than a week,” said Snyder.

Snyder said one factor that helps Boston is the series of parks and wetlands around the Charles River.

“That serves as a big sponge that can hold up flood water if we get a lot of rain,” said Snyder.

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