Hurricane Sandy's aftermath still has shore communities in New York and New Jersey reeling. Could another Sandy happen in Maine? Not exactly, say scientists attending a conference this Friday, July 12, in South Portland — but something very similar could, according toa Portland Press-Herald report ("Beaches conference to focus on lessons from Sandy," by Clarke Canfield/Associated Press).
If a storm for the record books hits the Maine coast, storm surge will the biggest threat to the built environment, said marine geologist Stephen Dickson. Maine is less developed, so the total cost would likely be less in dollar terms. But for Mainers with homes or businesses near the water, the impact could be severe.
The Press-Herald reports: "On Feb. 7, 1978, a 2.5-foot storm surge combined with an 11.6-foot tide resulted in a total storm tide of 14.1 feet, [Dickson] said. But geologists recently learned that there have been storm surges of 4, 5, and 6 feet through the decades in Portland, according to tide gauge records going back to 1912. The highest storm surge on record was 6.5 feet, on Jan. 24, 1921, but that occurred during low tide so its impact was minimal. 'If we had a surge like that at high tide, we would have waters where we never had them before. And then we would have our own Sandy,' Dickson said."
Besides a look back at Hurricane Sandy damage and a discussion of what a similar storm could bring to Maine, Friday's conference will include sessions on beach erosion, water quality, and floodplain issues. Sponsored by the Maine Sea Grant, the conference will last all day at the Southern Maine Community College. For more information, see the Sea Grant's "Maine Beaches Conference" website.