Irene: A Cause to Prepare

Coastal Resilience Tool: A Tool for Coastal Planning in a Changing World

Local decision-makers and scientists describe how this online tool will help prepare for sea-level rise and storm surge.


“Irene is another reminder of the risks of living and investing along the coast."
- Adam Whelchel

In the hours before Tropical Storm Irene spiraled into Connecticut in August, Dr. Adam Whelchel was doing the same things as many other Nutmeg Staters: eyeing the storm’s track, checking his to-do list and phoning relatives.

But Whelchel, the Connecticut program’s director of science, had an additional focus. As one of the minds behind a new online storm-surge projection tool created by the Conservancy and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, he was keenly aware of what the roiling ocean could do to Connecticut’s coastal communities.

The Coastal Resilience tool, which incorporates sea-level rise with potential storm surge impacts from Category 2 and 3 events, allows communities to visualize specific areas under different storm scenarios in the future—and today.

Your donation helps the Conservancy support Connecticut's coastal communities.

“The way the water stacks up in the Eastern Sound, I was worried,” Whelchel says. Although Irene hit Connecticut as “only” a tropical storm, storm surge still wreaked havoc on people, property and natural areas. Irene’s impact was significant, but it could have been much worse.

Whelchel hopes Irene will foster more discussion about how municipalities and the state can best plan for future storms, as well as the role conservation can play. The Coastal Resilience tool will aid that discussion.

“Irene is another reminder of the risks of living and investing along the coast,” Whelchel says. Communities can use the tool in many ways, such as better identifying areas likely unsuitable for future growth, or targeting for protection wetlands that act as buffers to storm surge.

Just before Irene, Whelchel reached out to more than 25 towns and regional planning groups. The message: The Coastal Resilience tool is there for your community, and so is The Nature Conservancy. It wasn’t the first time. In March, thanks to our members’ support, the Conservancy held workshops to familiarize many coastal communities with the tool. Two—Old Saybrook and Guilford—went deeper as part of a pilot program.

With your continued help, the Conservancy hopes to engage even more communities in 2012. After Irene, the importance of coastal conservation is clearer than ever.


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