In 2017 a late summer thunderstorm sat over the North Shore, and dumped four inches of rain on the Orient Heights section of East Boston, Lynn, and Winthrop. 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 floodwaters 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 done, 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 a storm that lasted just over an hour but many scientists agree that as the planet continues to heat, more moisture will evaporate from the seas and storms like the one in 2017 that devastated Eastie will be commonplace.
Mayor Martin Walsh announced this week new grant money for East Boston and four other Boston neighborhoods that will fund the city’s first heat resilience study. The study will focus on Eastie and other neighborhoods most vulnerable to the projected increases in extreme heat due to climate change.
The City of Boston was awarded a $280,070 Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Action Grant that will fund a strategic heat resilience planning study, an essential next step in preparing for the projected increases in extreme heat events over the coming decades.
“Combatting the very real threat of climate change is crucial as we continue to invest in strategies that prioritize our vulnerable communities to ensure an equitable, healthy future for all Bostonians,” said Walsh “I’m proud the City has received this award, and thank the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for their partnership in this vital work.”
The study will focus on “hot spots” throughout Eastie, as well as the neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, and Chinatown. Climate Ready Boston will develop heat mitigation scenarios in partnership with communities facing disproportionate effects of urban heat risk and compounding social inequity. The solutions will be community-driven and will result in equity and public health focused strategies and metrics to protect the health and safety of Boston neighborhoods for years to come.
“Our priority is to protect all residents from ecological hazards and climate change, but we know that not everyone is equally impacted,” said Chris Cook, Chief of Environment, Energy, and Open Space. “This heat resilience planning study will intentionally center on environmental justice communities to guide us to protect our especially vulnerable neighborhoods from the effects of climate change with actionable, innovative, and community-driven solutions.”
The Heat Resilience Planning Study is a critical component of Climate Ready Boston, an initiative to develop resilient solutions that will prepare our city for the effects of climate change: flooding due to sea-level rise and increased storms and extreme heat. The plan will build on heat preparedness work to date and explore a suite of potential heat mitigation strategies to identify infrastructure solutions and opportunities, as well as strengthen policies and programs needed to reduce urban heat and heat risk.
“Boston is one of four communities that are leading studies on extreme heat in this new MVP grant cycle,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides. “This summer reminded us of the dangers of the urban heat island effect, particularly for our most vulnerable residents, and this work on heat resilience planning has the potential to serve as an important model for other regions across the Commonwealth.”
This work builds on Walsh’s vision for a prepared, healthy, and resilient Boston. Since the initial release of the first Climate Ready Boston report in 2016, the City of Boston has completed a series of neighborhood-level coastal resilience projects in East Boston, Charlestown, and South Boston, and will soon announce reports and implementation roadmaps for the North End, Downtown, and Dorchester.