New England Feels Hurricane Irene’s Impacts: Nature Conservancy Scientists Available for Post-Storm Analysis

“Conservation is one of the best tools we have in reducing the impacts of hurricanes,” said Jon Kachmar of The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.

BOSTON, MA | August 30, 2011

As New England residents begin to recover from a difficult weekend of strong winds, surging tides and flooding rivers, scientists at The Nature Conservancy will be thinking not only about this storm but the next one, too.

Major hurricanes have caused devastating damage to New England in the past, and we’ll undoubtedly feel the impact of major storms in the future. In 1938 an early fall hurricane known as the "Long Island Express” hit the Eastern Seaboard, and caused the deaths of nearly 700 people and $4.7 billion in damage.

Already, analysts are placing the damage from Irene − which had weakened to tropical storm strength by the time it reached New England − in the billions of dollars.

“Conservation is one of the best tools we have in reducing the impacts of hurricanes,” said Jon Kachmar of The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.

Nature Conservancy staff scientists are available this week to discuss several ways in which conservation can help us better prepare for future hurricanes:

The online coastal resilience tool for the Long Island and Connecticut shorelines provides communities with information about likely impacts from future storms and lets them explore different flooding scenarios by incorporating impacts from sea level rise. Local leaders can use the coastal resilience tool to help plan for future storms and potentially reduce future risks. Elsewhere along the New England coast, we’re working to preserve coastal buffers and to ensure that dunes and marshes have room to migrate upland as sea levels rise over time.

“Protecting the salt marshes and eelgrass beds along the shoreline that help absorb the energy from storm surges benefits the species that use these systems as nurseries, as well as the human communities on the coast,” Kachmar said

MA coastal storm surge impacts
Jon Kachmar, Southeast MA Program Director

CT Coastal Resilience
Adam Whelchel, Connecticut Director of Science

Climate change and adaptation
Frank Lowenstein, Climate Adaptation Strategy Leader

 The Nature Conservancy is working to remove dams that have become unnecessary, both to allow fish and wildlife to move through a river system, and to protect the people whose homes and lives can be at risk when dams fall into disrepair or even fail under the pressure of flood waters.

“Rivers need to be able to flow,” said Alison Bowden of The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts. “When they are blocked by dams or separated from their natural floodplains by development, we often see larger floods and increased damage from high water.”

MA flooding – impact on rivers and dams
Alison Bowden, Massachusetts Director of Freshwater Conservation

Dams and stream flow in the Connecticut River watershed (CT or MA)
Kim Lutz, Director Connecticut River Program

Dams and stream flow in the Saugatuck River watershed (CT)
Sally Harold, Director Connecticut River Initiatives and Diadromous Fish

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at

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