Who We Are

Storm Surge was formed in 2013 by a group of concerned citizens in the Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts. Our purpose is to encourage and support our communities to prepare for the impacts of sea level rise, extreme weather events and other effects of long-term climate change.

Read the Daily News article about our formal launch on September 19, 2013.


Our Guiding Values….How we aspire to conduct ourselves, our strategies & activities in fulfilling our purpose:

    • Collaborative
    • Science & Fact Based
  • Facilitative
  • Transparent
  • Effective & Clear Communication
  • Relevant

Storm Surge

Geoffrey Day of Newburyport films waves washing sand through the south jetty last winter in February. (Bill Sargent photo)

Helping Communities Deal with the Challenges of Climate Change & Sea Level Rise

You may have read about the organization called Storm Surge in the papers or heard about some of their events in Newburyport and Newbury. The organization formed in the spring of 2013 in response to the devastation that took place along Plum Island during the previous winter.

We are Storm Surge: Climate Stewards.

We are concerned citizens. Storm Surge is a diverse group of individuals; some are business people; others are writers, scientists, educators, retirees and concerned citizens. As a group, we believe that there has to be a better way to manage the impacts of climate-enhanced storm activity and sea level rise. The damage on Plum Island in 2013 showed us all that necessity.

The group assembled a Steering Committee and a Community Outreach Team. We decided that our area needed Community Education and awareness to help motivate social change. We aimed our efforts at both the general public and elected officials, specifically in Newburyport. The group managed to secure a little bit of funding from the Institution for Savings and the New England Grassroots Environment Fund, but much of our success has come from the efforts of our volunteers.

Newspapers and Speakers  Elected officials read papers, so Storm Surge has focused on publishing editorials, articles, and event notices in the Newburyport Daily News & the Current. We want to keep Climate Change and Sea Level Rise in the forefront of the community’s consciousness.

Our educational Speaker Series has featured university-level speakers from UNH, Oberlin College in Ohio, the Florida Institute of Technology, the Woods Hole Institute, & MIT, to name a few. Topics have ranged from New England Climate Change Impacts to Erosion Control Methods, to Hurricanes and Winter Storms.

Spreading the message  Program attendance generally ranged from 60-100 people, but several programs “Rolling the Dice with Big Storms”, “Plum Island: A Night at the Movies”, and a Climate Change Themed Art Show at the Newburyport Art Association had attendance approaching & even exceeding 200 attendees. Cumulatively, over 2500 people have attended Storm Surge programs from the fall of 2013 through the spring of 2016, and nearly 600 people subscribe to our mailing list.

Programming with regional impact  “Rolling the Dice with Big Storms” was a program developed by Mike Morris, Storm Surge’s Chairman; Robert Thompson, Meteorologist in Charge at the NWS in Taunton; and Lon Hachmeister, one of the group’s oceanographers. Our target audience was local emergency management personnel. The purpose was to illustrate the area’s vulnerability to the types of storms currently forming over the North Atlantic. “We often do not hear about these meteorological events, as some storms just miss us or have actually impacted Europe”, reports Mike Morris. The presentation was impactful and eye opening.

Word of this presentation spread and the New England Region’s EPA Science Council invited Storm Surge to present the program in Boston. We made a third presentation at the Newburyport Fire House, with many local and state elected officials in attendance. It became obvious to the Newburyport community that their waste water and drinking water facilities, as well as a National Grid Electrical facility, were currently at risk for flooding. “If these three facilities were shut down in a Storm, the City would grind to a halt”, commented Jon Eric White, Newburyport’s City Engineer.

Civic planning  Concurrently, a grant awarded to the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) called the “Sandy Grant” was helping area Communities assess their risk and form plans to address them. Members from Storm Surge were invited to take part in the Community Task forces working under the direction of the NWF. Newburyport’s Mayor Donna Holaday convened a Community Flood Resiliency Committee to move their process along more quickly. The group includes City Councilors, Conservation Commission, City Engineering, Resiliency & Planning Dept Staff, individuals from NOAA, and a former USACE specialist in Riverine environments, as well as representation from Storm Surge.

Planning for future federal funding  Being involved at the ground level in these efforts, it is apparent to Storm Surge members that there is a monumental amount of work to be done with very little funding to assist Communities. Sources at EPA in Boston and NWF are optimistic that Federal funding will likely be available in the future, but certainly won’t be available to communities who don’t have a risk assessment and adaptation plan in place. Newburyport, Newbury, Salisbury, Rowley, Ipswich & Essex will develop these plans under NWF’s program.

Smart development  It is Storm Surge’s purpose to support and encourage its Communities in this risk assessment and adaptation effort. We are not anti-development; rather we understand that communities need economies to thrive. Storm Surge would like to see development take place with the most resilient technology & methods available. Development shouldn’t create problems for the municipality, the environment, and public resources, like our beaches and waterfront areas. These resources are at the core of local economic engines.

Our purpose at Storm Surge is to let Communities know that they have certain exposures to risk and that they need to start thinking about strategies to reduce those vulnerabilities. Storm Surge is making that information available through its programs.