NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 5, 2014

Public safety officials outline efforts to prepare for severe storms

NEWBURYPORT — Much of the recent discussion regarding threatening winter weather on the coast has related to preserving seaside houses, but a gathering of local public safety officials this week focused on how to save people.

The group Sea Level Rise meeting Monday brought together emergency managers from Newburyport, Newbury and Salisbury, who spoke about precautions their organizations take and what vulnerable residents can do during a “code red” or serious storm.

“We don’t take evacuation lightly,” said police Chief Michael Reilly of Newbury, who is also the lead emergency management official. “We consult with weather professionals, state emergency teams, and we will watch the conditions ourselves.

“But if we do recommend leaving, take our evacuation orders seriously.”

Marshal Thomas Howard of Newburyport said that if there is a serious storm, “stay informed, and have a plan” for leaving areas prone to flooding.

Sea Level Rise leaders weren’t saying that tumultuous weather is on the way, but this year-old group takes storms seriously.

Indeed, spokesman Mike Morris offered a well-illustrated visual presentation that noted that a half-dozen storms in the past decade have come close to creating disastrous conditions on the Essex County coast.

“If Superstorm Sandy had come further north, our coastline could have been devastated,” said Morris, who said he has studied coastal weather conditions for almost two decades.

Morris said that coastal dwellers can’t assume they will escape harm with each storm system, and for that reason the group brought spokesmen from emergency management groups together.

Sea Level Rise has offered a half-dozen programs in recent months to discuss storms and tumultuous weather conditions.

Scientists that the group have hosted have said that water levels in the ocean and rivers are rising, and that severe conditions that begin offshore can result in major storm surges along the coast.

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