Our View: Flooding Isn’t Going Away

by The Cape Cod Chronicle

Last Thursday, the Chatham Fire Department sent its high-water vehicle out to rescue folks stranded by flooding. It was the second time this year the department had deployed the vehicle; in both instances, flooding on Morris Island Road necessitated use of the emergency vehicle.

Let’s hope the department maintains the high-water vehicle in good repair; they’re going to need it a lot more in the coming months and years.

Last week’s storm, like another in January, blew through quickly with strong winds that didn’t seem that far out of the ordinary. However, it pushed coastal waters to levels rarely seen even just a few years ago. With rising sea levels and other effects of climate change, this is becoming routine and outpacing the ability of authorities to respond.

Morris Island Road is one of 30 roadways across the Cape for which the Cape Cod Commission is developing recommendations for flood proofing. Many share the same difficulties in developing solutions: low elevations, nearby wetlands, and few alternate routes available. Cost estimates for possible solutions just for Morris Island Road run from $700,000 to more than $3 million, and still won’t solve the problem completely.

For Morris Island Road and other frequent flooding locales, towns need to do some deep dives when considering the future. Who is using these roads during storm events? Is it residents, contractors, sightseers? Are flooding events becoming routine, and does that require some sort of warning system to prevent residents from becoming stranded? Are such drastic steps as closing off certain roads at certain times, mandating emergency preparations, having boats on standby (or even instituting ferries) called for?

These problems aren’t going to go away; they are going to get worse. Chatham and other towns should use established emergency preparedness groups to brainstorm solutions and work out plans for the near term. We’ve been fortunate in recent years that the worst that’s happened is a few flooded vehicles. It’s only a matter of time before that luck runs out.