, Newburyport, MA

November 1, 2013

How dry we are, but how beautiful

Bill Plante's North Shore
Newburyport Daily News

---- — This has been a peculiar summer of seasonal contrasting weather results.

I know, I know — ice caps are melting and the tides are rising, but ...

Hay Street’s Quill’s pond has been steadily shrinking for lack of substantial rain. So have reservoirs everywhere.

Nothing is new about the pond depth’s shrinking. It usually does during middle to late summer before its heavy rain refueling. But, here we are in November and each day it shrinks a little more.

Given that the street side banks of the pond were lined with hay bales during the resurfacing of the street and drain construction, the sighting angle of water depth was difficult.

My eyeball measurement indicated an average depth being down to 4 or 5 inches or so for much of the pond, with the surviving swan finding comfort in the deeper water at the westerly end.

It’s not uncommon for the easterly end to have no water, but that usually occurs earlier than November.

Despite, or maybe because of a lack of rain and winds, this has been one of the most extended periods of spectacular colors.

I can’t recall a more brilliant red than our backyard maple sports with no leaves fallen.

Obviously, something’s out of whack with the weather hereabouts, but I’ll take it.

As for the downside of dry conditions, Yosemite firefighters had to battle record-breaking fires for most of the past month because forests were dry as tinder. Fires out that way are not unusual, but this one was.

No, it’s not because of the melting icebergs. The North Atlantic did rise about 2 feet, but scientists maintain that melting icebergs haven’t produced anything like that, and they are trying to figure what happened and why even as the condition is retreating.

Meanwhile, home and business coastline owners are either investing heavily in whatever it takes to safeguard their ocean-fronting properties or taking what comfort they can from what might well have been an extraordinary ocean event.

Insurance companies, however, cannot overlook what happened by way of property losses. Nor can owners of homes and businesses in threatened areas.

Scientists may determine this to have been a one-off spasm of nature, but insurance companies can’t, and that’s going to put coastal property owners and communities in a bind sooner or later.

As for the future, there are projections of a sea level rise of up to a foot, give or take, by this century’s end, and how that is handled shoreline-wise depends on topography.

As for that, Hay Street is up and down from High Road to the Turnpike, and the low spots will require uplifting. That would include a larger and deeper pond area, and probably more waterfowl. Our home at No. 20 would be about 21 feet above sea level instead of 22.

Much of the marvelous spread of marshes would be under water at high tides, as would most of Newman Road between Hay Street and the parking area just beyond the Newman Road culvert.

Nevertheless, the charm of it all will remain for so long as there are those willing to undertake the essential engineering and its cost.

When? Oh, when sufficient time has past — say when our most recent newborns reach their 80s.


Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is