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Unrecognizable Maine Beaches

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Feb14,2024

Des Maine beaches unrecognizable

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Ogunquit beach and sand dunes damaged by winter storms which swept over Maine.

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Anyone who has ever vacationed in Ogunquit would be surprised when going there these days. The fine sand has disappeared from its long beach, the dunes are half torn away, the footbridges broken… The result of two consecutive storms which hit Maine in January.

From Bar Harbor in the north to Kittery in the south, the coast has suffered greatly. The American state fears that this is a foretaste of the coming decades with rising sea levels and warming, three times faster in the Gulf of Maine than in the oceans. The coast of Maine as we know it is set to change.

Cathy Stackpole knows this very well. She still has in mind the high tide of January 13. I couldn’t believe how much the ocean… roared!, she says. That midday, the sea flooded part of its vacation and healing center located in Saco, south of Old Orchard Beach.

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Cathy Stackpole is the director of the Ferry Beach Retreat and Conference Center.

Our boardwalk was damaged and we lost all of our dunes. We have to fix them. One of our buildings was flooded and needs to be renovated.

A quote from Cathy Stackpole, director of the Ferry Beach Retreat and Conference Center

Her center is one of nearly 500 businesses to have requested help from the State to repair damage, not to mention the thousands of victims like those in Wells whose homes were flooded.

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A section of the road along the sea is closed for repairs in Wells, Maine.

By the sea, very few residents are insured against flooding. The work is likely to be long and costly for them and they are likely to experience further flooding.

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Since 1910, sea levels in Portland have risen about 18 centimeters, says Hannah Baranes, who studies the impact of climate change in the Gulf of Maine.

Two storms hit us in quick succession, accompanied by strong southwest winds. Without rising sea levels, these weather events would simply have been a little more severe than normal, says Hannah Baranes, a researcher at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

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Hannah Baranes is a researcher at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute.

The Gulf of Maine, which extends from southern New Scotland to the Cape Cod Peninsula in Massachusetts has been warming three times faster than the world's oceans over the past 40 years.

One of the explanations put forward by scientists concerns the warm ocean current of the Gulf Stream offshore. A widening of the Gulf Stream has been observed, which causes a leak of warm water outside the main current towards the Gulf of Maine, specifies the expert.

Cathy, like many residents who live near the sea, notes that the time has perhaps come to move some of her buildings like the immense one , where the center's dormitories are located.

She wonders: We will have to move this building, it is too close to the ocean, but in 20 years, that may not be enough. And then, will we have to move it again?

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The holiday and wellness center run by Cathy Stackpole is located just a few meters from the beach.

According to recent studies, sea levels on the Maine coast are likely to be 18 inches higher in 2050 and 4 feet higher in 2100. Some of the state's beaches are expected to disappear. . And this scenario is optimistic because the most pessimistic predicts a sea level rise of 2.4 meters in 75 years.

This is a crucial time to think about these numbers and what they mean. How to rebuild, where to rebuild and should we rebuild?, asks Hannah Baranes.

Cathy doesn't dare imagine how much it could cost to move or put several structures on stilts. You're trying to create a meeting place, to make it a place where people have fun. And there, seeing everything that’s happening, it’s worrying for the future…, she said.

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The Old Orchard Beach pier was damaged by the January 13 storm.

In 2019, 2.3 million Canadians visited Maine, according to the state's tourism office. Old Orchard Beach is one of the most popular destinations. You know, 30% to 40% of our business is Canadian!, says the director of the local chamber of commerce.

Although relatively spared, his city also tasted the last storm. Nothing will appear during the tourist season, assures Kim Howard, but there too, we will have to adapt.

Obviously, this type of event is going to happen more and more. So the business community and people along the coast need to prepare, she says.

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Kim Howard is director of the Old Chamber of Commerce Orchard Beach.

Same story among decision-makers in the capital, Augusta. Old Orchard Beach, Kennebunk Port… In the future, these towns will undoubtedly remain prosperous, but things will be different. Our state is considering investments to protect their infrastructure and support businesses, says Hannah Pingree, co-chair of the Maine Climate Council.

The Maine government has just announced the creation of a $50 million fund to help municipalities and business people adapt to climate change.

Our environmental protection department actively focuses on how to protect the dunes sand, raise docks, and help our fishing industry.

A quote from Hannah Pingree, co-chair of the Maine Climate Council

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Hannah Pingree is co-chair of the Maine Climate Council .

If we reduce greenhouse gas emissions and sea levels rise, but slowly and steadily, that will give us time to change building regulations and town plans to accommodate us. adapt, concludes Hannah Baranes.

Cathy Stackpole, for her part, wants to bring together business people from the coast to make things happen. I have the impression that no one understands the extent of the situation, even if it is already late to act, she believes.

She must order tons of sand to rebuild her dune while wondering if she will have a beach left at high tide in the coming years.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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