Our View: 30 Years After The Halloween Storm, Climate Change Is The Real Terror

Opinion

It was 30 years ago on Oct. 31 that three separate weather systems converged just offshore, creating the destructive Halloween Storm – dubbed the Perfect Storm by author Sebastian Junger – that ravaged the east-facing coastline around Boston. As it was, the storm’s greatest fury was spent offshore, where it famously claimed the fishing vessel Andrea Gail of Gloucester, which went down with all hands.

Though the storm spawned sustained hurricane-force winds and a fair amount of erosion in Chatham, damage on the Cape was relatively limited. Elsewhere, the Halloween Storm caused more than $200 million in damage, destroying or damaging more than 100 homes in Massachusetts. It was a scary time, for sure.

Three decades later, consider the storm in a new light. Just by virtue of inflation, damage from the same storm today would total more than $400 million. Only now, the shoreline is even more densely developed than it was, putting more high-value homes at higher risk. That’s spooky.

But the real specter is climate change, which will make such storms more frequent and more intense. Sea level rise will put more properties at risk and will take its toll on the dunes and salt marshes that now offer natural protection against big storms. What were once referred to as “hundred-year storms” already seem to be happening every decade – or more frequently.

When it comes to everyday decisions like taking steps to conserve energy, to reduce our personal carbon footprints, or to support climate-friendly political policies, the Halloween Storm underscores the need to act now.

To do otherwise is to face a very real nightmare.