Major Flooding Hits MA South Shore During Snowstorm, But Why Not RI, South Coast?

Jan 11, 2018

Flooding during last week's snowstorm was nowhere near as extreme in Rhode Island and the South Coast as it was in areas like Boston, Scituate and Marshfield. But why? 

Part of the reason has to do with luck.

Janet Freedman, coastal geologist at the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, said winds during the storm blew in from the northeast, and unlike Massachusetts, Rhode Island’s south shore faces south.

“So, if we have a Nor’easter that’s to our southwest, we will at some point in the storm, we will be getting winds from the south east. We didn’t have that now, the winds were coming from the north," Freedman said, meaning the winds blew the water away from the shore instead of toward it.

Freedman said Rhode Island’s high tide also had better timing than Massachusetts’.

“Our high tides were nine o’clock that day and the storm had just started really picking up speed, whereas in Massachusetts, in Boston and Cape Cod, their high tides were in the afternoon, so they were right in the peak of the storm," Freedman said. 

The National Weather Service reported Boston had its highest tide on record that day.

Rhode Island also had higher than normal tides, but flooding in areas such as South Kingstown and Westerly was minor at less than a foot, Freedman said. 

The Boston Globe documented flooding along Massachusetts' coast, including icy water that flooded Atlantic Avenue in downtown Boston.