The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

A Storm "Most Challenging"

Posted by | January 9, 2018 | Filed under: Observations

When most of us left the office on Wednesday, we had a "see you next week" mindset. With blizzard in the Thursday forecast, it was sensible to plan a work-from-home day. It wasn't a stretch to figure Friday could be fruitless, too.

Sure enough, the storm hit hard. Snow got deep and would not stay put. Relentless drifting erased every attempt to plow paths. Director Dest's email updates during the storm reflected the dire situation and his post-storm assessment bore one key line:

In my 17 years at the Reserve this was the most challenging winter storm.

Plow driver Speight and a few extraordinary volunteers made a valiant effort, but it was the middle of the day on Monday before access roads, essential walkways, and parking areas were put in order. It was the ultimate test for the new truck, plow, and sander that arrived just after the new year.

By the Numbers

Back in the office on Monday, SWMP Tech Miller was quick to pull story-telling data out of our weather and water stations. First, take a look at the unceasing wind (blue) plotted against plummeting barometric pressure (brown). That's an amazing 30+ hours straight with gusts exceeding 20 mph, with mercury sinking below 29" at its nadir.

Graph of barometric pressure and wind gusts for the January 2018 storm.

Now check out the tides. The high, already destined to be above average due to gravitational pull, went 2 feet beyond the expected peak, reaching 13.4 feet as a result of storm surge. Most of us have marveled at images and videos shared online, not only from Boston and Portland, but from Wells and Kennebunkport, too. We wish only the best for anyone contending with damage from the storm. It's exactly this scenario that drives us to help local businesses plan ahead for such coastal disasters.

Graph of predicted and provisional tides for the January 2018 storm.

What's the Damage?

The Wells Reserve at Laudholm fared well. Among our greatest concerns when surf goes wild are our beach access boardwalk and steps, but these remained solidly in place. The bottom step and support post look like they could use a little attention before spring (that overly friendly ice chunk has already moved on). Overall, it looks like the dune held its own. We haven't yet been out to every edge of the property, but we're feeling fortunate so far.

Bottom step for access to Laudholm Beach, taken January 6, 2018 by Nik Charov.

Setting an Example

Ever alert for "see what can happen?" examples, Trainer Cox tracked down this post from the Rockingham County Planning Commission in New Hampshire. As king tide photo contests have illustrated, exceptional events can paint a picture of future normal conditions. In this case, sea level rise impact projections for Portsmouth correspond well with the reality of this event.

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