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Local News

February 5, 2014

Public safety officials outline efforts to prepare for severe storms

(Continued)

Those who attend the organization’s sessions say such discussions are timely additions to the public discourse because the erosion of parts of Plum Island is tangible proof that local areas are vulnerable.

Speaker Robert Thompson, meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service in Taunton, said, “If you look at weather events going back to Hurricane Bob in 1991, it’s evident that one of many storms could have done great damage to the state’s coastline.

“This area has dodged a bullet in certain storms, but residents have to be ready if a major event does target this coast,” he added.

Sea Level Rise officials said that those near a river’s edge must also be alert to tumultuous weather events.

Morris noted that several years ago, Cashman Park was under several feet of water. He added that Amesbury’s Powow River rises and rushes through the downtown area when springtime rain combines with melting snow to create a significant amount of surface water.

Robert Cook, emergency management director in Salisbury, indicated that public-safety officials in that coastal community have been making plans for years regarding evacuation.

“Many people in Salisbury don’t have their own transportation,” he said. “We must be ready to help move them out of low areas.”

He added that public officials have developed evacuation plans knowing that several major roads, including Route 1, could be shut down by water rising in the marshes during stormy weather.

The local officials said they have formal plans on how to react to an extreme weather event, even if it is predicted four days prior to the moment it reaches shore.

In this particular discussion, the term “evacuation” came up often.

Reilly said, “We will never ask people to evacuate without much study and discussion with state emergency officials, because we don’t want to be accused to crying ‘wolf.’ Residents wouldn’t listen to us again if we don’t get it right.

“But if we do say evacuate, we want you to leave. If not, just take a Sharpie and write your Social Security number on your arm so we can identify you after the storm.”

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