Coastal Storm Team Assesses Recent Storm Damage

Special to the Sun

The Massachusetts Rapid Response Coastal Storm Damage Assessment Team (Storm Team) was activated for the January 10 and 13 storms. The Storm Team is a network of 58 state, federal, and local agency personnel—led by the Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) within the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA)—that covers the Massachusetts coast during and after storms to collect and relay information on storm damage. For the January 10 storm, the team documented widespread coastal erosion and flooding of low-lying areas within all regions, along with road and building damage in Edgartown, Falmouth, Salisbury, and Westport. For January 13, the team also found widespread erosion and flooding, with moderate coastal flooding extending further inland along the South Shore, Boston, and North Shore, along with structural damage. 

“Thank you to the Storm Team members who went out in these recent storms to proactively check out the impacts to our coast,” said EEA Secretary Rebecca Tepper. “These reports are invaluable for assessing damage in real-time and for evaluating the long-term impacts of climate change and sea level rise on our shoreline.” 

“CZM has been leading the Storm Team for more than 30 years, working with partners on the ground to quickly and safely determine the impacts from coastal storms,” said CZM Director Lisa Berry Engler. “This information not only helps with emergency response and weather forecasting efforts but also allows us to better understand how to improve coastal resilience and prepare for future storms.” 

When a storm approaches, CZM closely follows National Weather Service (NWS) forecasts and activates team members in areas where significant coastal flooding and erosion impacts are expected to document damages as quickly as possible. Working directly with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the information can be used to inform emergency management decisions at the local, state, and federal levels during the storm. CZM also serves an emergency support function role within the State Emergency Operations Center at MEMA headquarters in the event it is activated in response to a storm involving potential coastal impacts. Storm Team reports may be used following a storm during the damage assessment process, which can help determine the state’s potential eligibility for federal disaster assistance, and MassDEP uses this information to determine if emergency regulations are needed for storm recovery. Storm Team reports also have important long-term value, allowing NWS to fine-tune forecasting of future storm impacts and improving coastal floodplain management decision-making at the state and local levels. 

The Storm Team reports are made through the StormReporter phone app or web tool, which allow members and volunteers to record observations and upload pictures in near-real time during coastal storm events, enabling the rapid delivery, sharing, and archiving of coastal storm damage data. In addition to official Storm Team members, volunteers can enter reports at any time with photos and observations of storm impacts by going to, signing up for an account, downloading the app, and entering the information. also has links to already recorded storm observations and other related online tools for contributing coastal data when observations can be made safely.  

Specific documented impacts from these storms include: 

• January 10 – The CZM Storm Team members assessed sites in 26 communities on the North Shore, South Shore, Buzzards Bay, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket and submitted more than 180 reports. These reports documented widespread flooding of low-lying coastal roads and beach parking areas, eroded and overwashed beaches and dunes, and overwashed seawalls and other shore protection structures. Ponded flooding was also documented in low-lying developed areas in Barnstable, Dennis, Edgartown, Falmouth, Hull, Marshfield, Nantucket, Newbury, Newburyport, Salisbury, Saugus, Wareham, and Westport. Damage to roads was found in Edgartown and Falmouth and damage to buildings documented in Edgartown, Falmouth, Salisbury, and Westport.  

• January 13 – The CZM Storm Team documented widespread beach, dune, and bank erosion, along with flooding of low-lying roads, parking areas, and neighborhoods in 39 communities along the Massachusetts coast, submitting 333 reports—including reports from 30 Storm Team members and 10 volunteers. Moderate coastal flooding was found to extend farther inland along the South Shore, Boston, and North Shore. Damage was also reported to docks and piers on Cape Cod and Nantucket, homes in Salisbury, and a seawall in Salem. In multiple locations, ponded water flow was documented around vehicles and buildings. 

The Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management work includes helping coastal communities address the challenges of storms, sea level rise, and other effects of climate change; working with state, regional, and federal partners to balance current and new uses of ocean waters while protecting ocean habitats and promoting sustainable economic development; and partnering with communities and other organizations to protect and restore coastal water quality and habitats. 

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