Twin Nor'easters Are Preview of New Norm for Storms

Between last week's nor'easter and this week's, coastal Massachusetts residents are wondering whether storms are more frequent than they were in the past or they simply have a bigger impact.

"Sometimes, you have two 'hundred-year storms' in a year. They keep calling them 'hundred-year storms,' but they keep showing up," said Quincy resident Gene Lacey.

In the 50 years that he's lived along the city's coastline, he's seen the changes.

"This is the deepest I've seen," he said, standing in front of his home, which flooded last week.

"It came up to here, right up to the top of that landing," he added, pointing to a staircase several feet above street level.

Lacey and most of his neighbors, like the Cotter family, evacuated by boat last week. He says the storm was worse here than the benchmark Blizzard of '78.

The city now estimates that public infrastructure damage, including things like seawalls, tops $8 million.

"The occurrence of it is much more frequent, obviously this year, especially," Joe Cotter said of the floods.

The coastal floods around Post Island are partially driven by rising sea levels, and that rise is now happening at a faster rate, according to new information from NASA.

In just 80 years, the study predicts seas will be at least 2.2 feet higher than today.

With that type of increase, flooding on par with that observed last week would happen during 10-15 high tide cycles every year by 2100.

That could cripple cities like Quincy and Boston almost on a monthly basis.

There's a concern, if you want to still live here, because I don't want to clean up the storms every couple months," Catherine Cotter said.

It's not just flooding becoming more extreme. A Dartmouth College study shows a 53 percent increase in extreme precipitation in recent decades. That means more storms producing more than 2 inches of rain or several feet of snow, like Wednesday's storm brought to western Massachusetts.

Back in Quincy, some residents have already elevated their homes or moved utilities from the basement to higher floors. But now, some think it's time for even more to be done. That may involve building breakwaters offshore, or making seawalls higher instead of just repairing them at the same height.

The bottom line is that while there may not be more storms than in the past, the storms we do see, and will continue to see, bring greater impacts to New England.

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