By John Lynds
On a recent Saturday morning a storm system sat over the North Shore, and dumped four inches of rain on Lynn, Winthrop and the Orient Heights section of East Boston. The slow moving system overwhelmed storm drains and flooded streets, backyards and basements across the area. When the flash flood waters receded, residents were left with the reality that they would have to deal with thousands of dollars worth of damage and most, if not all, the damage would not be covered by insurance.
On Thurston Street one resident lost a hot water heater, a gas furnace and all her valuables that were stored in the basement as flood waters reached nearly three feet. On Bennington Street several homes across from Orient Heights MBTA station were flooded and similar stories of total losses of everything in those basements were reported. When all was said and down many of the working class residents of Eastie were forced to shell out tens of thousands of dollars to replace heating and water systems, electrical units and clean and dry their basements. Again, insurance agencies came back time and time again rejecting claims because the storm event was considered a ‘flood’ and floods are typically not covered under traditional homeowners insurance policies.
This was the case for a storm that lasted a just over an hour.
What if the storm wan’t a typical fall thunderstorm, but something more serious like Harvey that dumped 50 plus inches of rain on Houston? Or a storm like Irma or Maria that devastated the Caribbean islands?
It’s events like these that has the East Boston Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) calling for more comprehensive planning and dialogue between the community and city and state stakeholders.
On Saturday, October 28 from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Mario Umana Academy NOAH will host the East Boston Climate Summit.
“When you start to think about the reality of what happens when a storm like Harvey or Irma happens or even that storm a few weeks ago you are talking about loss of money, loss of property, loss of boilers, flooding of basements, disruption of small business and food access, disruption to transportation and our tunnels,” said NOAH Executive Director Phil Giffee. “When you can’t get around due to flooding you are stopping work, you are stopping life and the economic flow of the region.”
Giffee said NOAH’s wants to be the bullhorn through which the community can speak loudly to stakeholders and begin thinking of ways to protect our homes, businesses and community from sea-level rise, storm water events and other climate change issues.
“We better start thinking about ways to prevent or fix these areas of concern in our community,” said Giffee. “We have a moral obligation to keep pushing city and state agencies and elected officials because the consequences of a Harvey-like storm could be catastrophic here.”
At the Climate Summit, residents can come and learn what planning is in the works, what still needs to be done, and what is budgeted for the future.
Giffee said Mayor Marty Walsh, a national climate change leader, is NOAH’s invited speaker along with Oscar A. Chacón, co‐founder and executive director of Alianza Americas (formerly known as NALACC). Alianza Americas is an umbrella of immigrant‐led and immigrant-serving organizations.
“This summit is not the end of something or the conclusion,” said Giffee. “We need to be doing more of these activities, gain authority on the issues, get the facts get people motivated engaged as much as possible. But hopefully through these type of events we can start to motivate the public sector and show there are people here with concerns and ideas and think of a process to get these agencies working together with us. We need to advocate for ourselves and our community and make sure we are heard on this important issue.”