Hurricane Irene is bearing down on Massachusetts and may pack 12 inches of rain, a coastal storm surge and plenty of ferocious winds. Depending how these threats develop in the next 48 hours you might be pulling in your boat, putting up the storm windows and battening down the proverbial hatches.
On our list is deploying pressure transducers.
This week, Franz Ingelfinger and Jeremy Bell, ecologists from the Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration, will be scattered along the coast at recently completed and soon to be constructed salt marsh restoration sites. They’ll be double checking monitoring equipment and installing new electronic water level gauges (pressure transducers) to see how restoration sites respond to extreme tidal conditions. Data from these types of events reveal how accurate design predictions are in the real world and how recently installed culverts and tide gates, intended to increase natural flow, perform under stress. Large storm events, such as Hurricane Irene, also reveal the threat posed by failing or undersized infrastructure, which can impound water and exacerbate coastal flooding.
A healthy salt marsh is one of your best defenses against a major coastal storm, whether it’s hurricanes from the south or Nor’easters from the Gulf of Maine. Marshes cushion the blow of fierce waves and rip tides – protecting roads, rails and homes. Designing restoration projects that accommodate monster tides and epic events is always an important consideration, especially given that many of our marshes are bounded by essential infrastructure.
Once the last of the storm retreats inland or up the coast of Maine, Jeremy and Franz will crunch the data and see whether culverts, tide gates and proposed restoration actions are doing their job and whether engineers are correct in their assumptions.