Ocean water carried ice floes and dumpsters through the streets of Boston and trapped hundreds of people in homes and offices on Thursday afternoon, as the nor’easter sweeping up the Eastern Seaboard brought record flooding to Boston Harbor and the Massachusetts coast.
In Boston, the National Weather Service reported the water level had reached or surpassed an all-time high, set during the Blizzard of ’78. The so-called “bomb cyclone,” one of the fastest-strengthening winter storms in history, blew into New England early this morning.
In Downtown Boston, firefighters used boats to rescue stranded motorists. Sea water full of ice chunks turned thoroughfares like Atlantic Avenue, which curves around the waterfront, into lakes. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen the water come this high up in this downtown area,” Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn told reporters.
The storm surge appeared to be even worse in more exposed South Shore towns along Cape Cod Bay like Hull, Scituate, and Marshfield.
Because of its low elevation, large swaths of reclaimed land, and position at the mouth of a bay, Boston has long been considered one of the most vulnerable U.S. cities to climate change-induced storm surges. Ten feet of sea-level rise, which scientists consider the worst-case scenario, would put 30 percent of the city’s land underwater by the end of the century. Today’s tide was on track to be the highest since record-keeping began in 1921.
The storm is supposed to move on by Friday, as the city faces what might be the lowest high temperatures in recorded history—not good news if the streets remain full of water.