Preparing for climate change, sea level rise

If you’re from the North Shore, you may have read about the nonprofit Storm Surge in the papers or attended one of the group's events in Greater Newburyport.

Global atmospheric modeling run on the Discover supercomputer at the NASA Center for Climate Simulation at Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
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Newburyport News Editor's note: This is one in a continuing series of guest opinions about fostering environmental stewardship. The series is coordinated by ACES, the Alliance of Climate & Environmental Stewards.

Storm Surge formed in spring 2013 following the devastation that took place along Plum Island the previous winter. Its members represent a diverse cross-section of society, including businesspeople, writers, scientists, educators, retirees and concerned citizens who share a common bond as stewards of this planet.

We believe local communities need to start throttling back their impacts on our climate while concurrently preparing for the immediate effects of climate-enhanced storm activity and sea level rise. The group embraces the motto, “Think Globally, Work Locally and Act Personally.”

Once where there was a house Plum Island, Newbury, MA

Storm Surge has focused its core strategy on community education and awareness to help motivate social change. Thus, efforts have been not only aimed at the general public, but also at elected officials, specifically in Newburyport.

The group managed to secure some funding from the Institution for Savings and the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, but much of its success has come from the efforts and donations of its volunteers.

Understanding that elected officials read newspapers, Storm Surge has focused on publishing editorials, articles and notices of their educational speaker series in The Daily News of Newburyport and The Current. This has kept the issue at the forefront of the community’s consciousness.

Since 2013, cumulatively, over 3,600 people have attended nearly 60 Storm Surge programs, while some 650 people subscribe to the group's mailing list, and over 1,600 people engage and follow on Facebook.

Beyond community education, Storm Surge is active in efforts aimed at making communities more resilient to climate impacts and sea level rise.

Storm Surge members have served on community task forces for Newburyport, Newbury and Salisbury under the National Wildlife Federation’s Sandy Grant, Newburyport’s EPA-sponsored Flood Resilience for Riverine and Coastal Communities assessment, as well as the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness  programs.

To move the city’s adaptation planning and implementation process along, Mayor Donna Holaday has convened the Newburyport Resiliency Committee. The group includes city councilors, the Conservation Commission, city engineering representatives, resiliency and Planning Department staff, as well as individuals from NOAA, a former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers specialist in riverine environments, and also a member from Storm Surge.

The committee is tasked with not only considering the impacts of sea level rise and storms, but also the other consequences of climate change, such as drought, heat waves and insect disease vectors.

Storm Surge’s purpose is to support and encourage its communities in this adaptation and mitigation effort. The organization isn’t anti-development; rather it understands that communities need economies to thrive.

Members would like to see development take place with the most resilient technology and sustainable methods available such that they do not create problems for the municipality, the environment and public resources, including area beaches and the waterfront, which are at the core of local economic engines.

Storm Surge informs communities about certain exposures to risk and the need to start developing and executing strategies to address those vulnerabilities now. The nonprofit is making that information available through its programs and its involvement in local resiliency planning and sustainability efforts.

Storm Surge is also a member of ACES — the Alliance of Climate and Environmental Stewards, which serves to organize, support and coordinate efforts of local environmental organizations.

Mike Morris is the chairperson and one of the founding members of Storm Surge. For more information, go to or join the group’s Facebook page at

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Mike is the chairperson and one of the founding members of Storm Surge.

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