The so-called “bomb cyclone” earlier this month lives on in the piles of snow that remain behind, blocking intersections, impeding visibility and threatening the lives of pedestrians, but for the most part, the city has moved on from the storm.

Towns on the coast, however, are still recovering from the high tides that rushed into downtowns, into homes and businesses, into schools and churches, before freezing solid. The combination of weather patterns and a super moon resulted in some of the highest tides the area has seen in the past few decades, to devastating effect.

The videos and images of Scituate, Quincy, Long Wharf and the Seaport that went viral during the storm are frankly astonishing. One Twitter user uploaded a video of a dumpster floating through the Seaport. Another posted photos of boats in the harbor rising to street level. Aquarium Station on the Blue Line shut down as water poured through the doors, down the stairs and onto the tracks.

Atlantic Avenue and Seaport Boulevard were impassible. Buildings lost power and heat (including the offices of this newspaper). Many of the buildings in the neighborhood contain offices, and most of the workers either didn’t come that day or hurriedly went home. But of course the Seaport – once a wasteland of parking lots and warehouses – is also home to luxury high-rise condo towers. People live there now; that’s what happens when cities expand.

The Seaport is a made-up neighborhood on what is essentially fill. There’s very little solid land underneath all of those high-rises. (This is also true of other areas in the city, notably Back Bay, which used to in fact be part of the bay.) Already home to millions of square feet of new development, the area is zoned and approved for millions more.

There are three ways in and out of the Seaport: via the Summer and Congress street bridges connecting it to Downtown; the Summer Street bridge on the other side over the Reserve Channel; and through South Boston. Oh, and into the Atlantic Ocean. If those three bridges are impassable – as they nearly were earlier this month – that leaves Southie as the only way out. If you think traffic is tragic now, wait until all of the Seaport, Telegraph Hill and City Point try to evacuate on Dot Ave.

The city was walloped by the bomb cyclone, it’s true, but it could have been far worse. The tides receded, the power and heat came back on, and everyone returned to their homes and offices after a weekend of cleanup efforts.

Some efforts have been made to mitigate the effects of climate change; already builders are relocating equipment on the tops of buildings rather than in their basements. A proposed new building in East Boston is designed to allow floodwaters to flow through the first floor causing only minimal damage. Discussion of building a sea wall has been renewed in recent weeks.

The memories of this weather event should not disappear from the collective conscious like melting piles of snow. Those epically high tides and ensuing flooding should weigh heavy on the minds of developers, industry groups, the legislature and anyone who lives in or loves this city. This was not a fluke. This will happen again. And Boston needs to be prepared for it.

Nowhere to Go in the Seaport

by Banker & Tradesman time to read: 2 min
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