Build smart in storm aftermath


“There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.”


That’s a line from the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists and economists around the globe who contribute to a regular update on the climate crisis.

The latest trifecta of storms that have nailed the Island is hitting home that the climate is only getting less ideal for our way of life. And while the Vineyard isn’t going to bring the global carbon emissions down singlehandedly, we can learn to better adapt.

Two spots on the Island during the recent storm are perfect metaphors for where we’re at: South Beach and downtown Vineyard Haven.

For downtown Tisbury, we experienced it firsthand: The MV Times’ bottom floor on Beach Road was flooded with ankle-deep water; a dozen or so cars stalled trying to traverse the area; businesses had to close; Stop & Shop, seen on both Island papers, had to build a barricade of sandbags. And while flooding in the area is a decades-old problem, three times in a matter of weeks is something new. It’s an inconvenience at best, and a safety hazard at worst. 

The state is in the midst of two studies for improvements in downtown Vineyard Haven that have the opportunity to improve conditions. One is a road safety study; the other — while it doesn’t, strangely, include redesigning a drainage outflow pipe near Five Corners — is for improved drainage downtown. As voiced by Tisbury’s administration last week, we encourage the state to speed up these studies, and start building sooner than later. With more and more intense storms, we can’t have major arteries that are below sea level. 

South Beach is the other area of town walloped over the past two months. Dunes on the beach were decimated; a section of Atlantic Drive collapsed. 

It’s unclear at our editorial deadline what town and state officials will do to make changes in these popular summertime destinations, but we encourage those involved to think about a changing climate. Do we want to build the same road at South Beach, which will crumble again in the next storm? Should the town consider retreating from the coast? Can Tisbury consider raising Five Corners?

These are tough questions. We’re living in unprecedented times, and not everyone will like the answers. But as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns, things are going to get worse before they get better, and that’s only if the globe is able to curb emissions.

Ideally, this is a time to build back better and stronger.


  1. Fully integrated high pressure pumping stations placed strategically to assist gravity and move water much faster. Technology already exists and more coming.

    • Andy– your recommendation for the problems
      are pumps ?

      Did you look at any of the videos of the ocean
      flowing across Atlantic Ave ? How many pumps are
      you proposing, at what cost to whom, and what
      source of power do you think will power these pumps
      to push the ocean back to the other side of
      Atlantic Ave when the “conventional” power goes out ?
      I don’t know if you know it or not but 5 corners
      is about 1 ft above sea level. — less on king tides.
      In these recent events, sea level was about 1 ft
      above the roadway in 5 corners.
      So, you suggest pumps– where would they pump all
      that water to ? across the street into the lagoon?
      Could you please be more specific with some details
      about what I would think would take a trillion dollars
      worth of pumps to reduce the problem by an inch.
      As always, I look forward to your reply.

      • Once again donnie you are not reading carefully. I am talking about pumps for drainage and flooding not for combatting a tidal wave that occasionally washes across the street. this technology is used all over the place but not on MV.

  2. The downpours are affecting Main Street as well. Walls of water from up the hill above Main Street cascade down Centre Street wash across Main Street and, because of the new pavement pitch and lack of adequate on Center St, lift up the bricks at the Linden Tree and wash out the soil of the Linden Tree damaging it and crashing into cars in the parking area behind. There have been reports of a one foot high wall of water sweeping that area. Center Street now is directly funneled at the Linden Tree and the sidewalk making the area now dangerous in heavy rains. Simple adjustments were suggested to avoid this result but were avoided by the Town.

  3. It’s time to start talking about managed retreat from the coast. Storms are only going to get worse as the sea rises and the air and sea get warmer. Retreat is not a dirty word; getting out of harm’s way is smart planning. How it will affect the Island economy is another dialogue we need to start.

      • Jim– It’s not so much that “we” are “supposed to”
        move inland, but more that our children
        and grandchildren won’t have a choice.
        One thing for sure. Those houses on Atlantic ave
        have a long term problem.

  4. Engelman, I think that your approach of mitigating the effects of climate change by dealing with its fallout is the most fiscally responsible and effective use of time and resources. Let’s face it driving around in electric vehicles on MV has as much affect of changing the climate as walking around in circles at five corners demanding a cease fire from Israel defending herself does.

    An earlier comment to you, similar in nature, was flagged as denying climate change. In no way am I denying that the climate is changing it’s my opinion that humans don’t have nearly as much power to control it. Especially when the entire human race isn’t committed to a simpler life. No cars, no air conditioning, no heat from burning wood, no industrial society and no procreation. My opinion is humans absolutely have an adverse affect on the planet with infinite ripple effects. We can and should do our best to be responsible stewards of our finite natural resources. Again my opinion, is that climate change has been weaponize and politicized to attack each other rather that coming together to find mutually beneficial solutions to responsibly use our natural resources.

    Opinions are just that, opinions, and they can be wrong. I have had many wrong opinions and have been swayed by people on this very site. I was completely against nuclear energy because of its dangerous byproducts until Don Keller shared some research that changed my mind. My point is that we need to share our opinions without censorship so perhaps they can be changed. Censoring people is never the answer especially if they are wrong, as now they have shown their intellect, or not. Please let me be the one evaluate as to what is write or wrong and perhaps have the ability to respectfully change someone’s mind.

    • I have never denied climate change. I dont know how much of it is from people though and I do insist that people can deal with it with technology and creativity instead of shutting down lifestyle and rendering millions around the world impoverished. I also dont trust the IPCC UN or other organizations who hysterically proclaim doom. As you say, riding bikes and EV’s and burning wood against China building coal plants will do nothing. If you want to build windmills and solar panels at taxpayers expense so be it.

  5. Carl, opinions are great and no one is advocating for limiting your 1st amendment right. However, passing off opinions for fact is not only wrong but extremely problematic. Especially when, in reality, the FACT is that there is immense empirical data suggesting humans are to blame for the acceleration in carbon emissions, which, in FACT, changes the climate.

    On a side note, next time you comment, make sure to proof read your work. “Please let me be the one to evaluate as to what is RIGHT or wrong…”.

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