Mattapoisett gets 'Weather Ready' before next big storm
Mattapoisett — When it comes to the next big storm, the question isn’t if but when, so Mattapoisett is getting ready. And on Thursday night town officials stressed that residents need to have an action plan, too.
“I probably don’t need to tell any of you in this room the vulnerability of Mattapoisett in relations to hurricanes,” said Town Administrator Mike Gagne.
The PreparAthon, held at Center School, was the culmination of a 10-month project by Weather Ready Mattapoisett, a group of town departments, organizations and individuals who worked with the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency.
The group looked at the impact of the unnamed 1938 hurricane and Hurricane Bob in 1991, both of which lead to loss of life, significant flooding and destruction of property.
High on the list of vulnerabilities in town are the water and wastewater systems. Retired water and sewer commissioner Nick Nicholson said flooding from Hurricane Bob crossed Route 6 and contaminated a well owned by Fairhaven on River Road. The salinity levels continue to be too high to use it more than 20 years later, and the same could happen to one of Mattapoisett’s well if the town isn’t ready.
The Eel Pond wastewater pumping station, which services 1,400 locations, is also a point of concern and work is being done to evaluate it before catastrophe.
Nicholson has no doubt a big storm is coming.
“I’ve seen a noticeable change in weather patterns. The storms seem to come more frequently,” he said.
With the EPA’s help, the dangers are easier to pinpoint for everyone in town. The EPA created interactive maps that show water inundation levels in category 2 and 4 storms. Another map factors in sea level rise. According to the maps, a category 4 storm could see 21-foot storm surges in some areas.
Taking the EPA’s data, Boy Scout Jared Watson created his Eagle Scout project to highlight just how high the water came in the past. He posted metal bands around electrical poles across town that show the flood levels during the ‘38 and ‘91 hurricanes, the former being three feet higher than the later.
Many residents still remember the ’38 hurricane, and part of Weather Ready Mattapoisett has been recording stories from those who saw it firsthand.
Jodi Bauer interviewed and ORCTV filmed dozens of residents for a documentary to come out in the next year. In a clip shown on Thursday, Lois Tucker remembered how her siblings held her hands so she wouldn’t blow away while Bob Winston, who was 10 at the time, said, “It was just as quiet…you could hear a pin drop.”
In another video, directed and edited by ORCTV intern Brittany Hotte of Marion, clips from Hurricane Bob show how violent the storm was in the moment.
Police Capt. Anthony Days filmed the footage from a police cruiser, in which he captured a fence floating behind the car and a house floating in front of it.
“I felt it was something that should be done for historical purposes. My father would have done that,” said Days, who used his father’s camera.
Also in the video, town officials advise residents on how to be prepared, stressing that they need to have a plan before a storm hits. Evacuation is not optional either. Officials said residents need to turn off gas and water, to have enough medication packed for three days, to have a plan for pets, to secure any possible projectiles on their property and to take valuables and important papers with them.
Residents can sign up for weather alerts and monitor the police department’s social media as well as the radio and local TV to stay up to date on a storm’s progress.
Days also emphasized the need to have a plan after the storm has blown through. He remembered people returning home and unknowingly stepping through plate glass windows submerged in water, sawing fallen trees near downed power lines and displaced bees everywhere.
“We’re going to need to do things right. There’s no redo,” said Days.
Residents can learn all about past storms and future preparedness through the interactive story map, then and now photos, videos and useful links, at mattapoisett.net. Information is also available at the Mattapoisett Library, Town Hall and Council on Aging.
As ORCTV Director Rob Chirito said, “Hopefully people take this information and use it so they can protect themselves and their property and their loved ones.”