Sea level rise is happening and is threatening Rhode Island’s low-lying coastal communities with higher than normal tides and storm surges that are flooding local roads, businesses, and homes. “You don’t need to wait 20, 30, or 50 years,” says Pam Rubinoff, coastal management extension specialist for Rhode Island Sea Grant and the Coastal Resources Center (CRC) at the University of Rhode Island.
Capturing photos of those flooded areas can help local and state planners identify places where resilience efforts are needed. Staff of Rhode Island Sea Grant, the Coastal Resources Center (CRC), the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), and Save The Bay are asking local community members to photograph the impacts of coastal storms and flooding on their neighborhoods and sharing that information with them through the MyCoast app.
MyCoast, an app that allows the public to share photos documenting King Tides and storm events for Rhode Island coastal management experts, helps people visualize the impacts of coastal hazards as sea levels continue to rise in Rhode Island. Experts are looking for the public’s help in taking photos at the height of King Tides and after storms and uploading them to the app.
MyCoast has been a valuable asset for stakeholders when planning for resilience improvements over the years. Teresa Crean, also a coastal management extension specialist with Rhode Island Sea Grant and CRC, says that MyCoast has been utilized by the town of Warren to begin the planning to proactively move businesses out of vulnerable, low-lying areas near the coast.
Towns like Warren have turned to this app to understand their risks so programs and policies can be developed to avoid irreversible land and property damage. Photos of Portsmouth’s Common Fence Point neighborhood have captured tidal inundation of the community ball park, which also abuts a saltmarsh. As a result, the community has changed the mowing pattern of the field to accommodate this inland migration of saltmarsh resulting from increased sea levels.
“MyCoast is a really good tool to provide a window to see what [is] to come,” says Wenley Ferguson of Save The Bay, who trained volunteers on taking photos and using the app when it was first launched in 2014. Today, MyCoast is a much simpler app where users can simply upload their photos independently.
Rubinoff says there are currently about 540 users of MyCoast in Rhode Island, and at least 250 participants, or “community scientists,” who have posted at least one photo to the app. Rubinoff, along with Crean and Ferguson, says it is important to obtain more photos of low-lying areas during coastal events, as sea-level rise is a looming concern. Rubinoff stresses that tide levels that are infrequent now will be chronic later, saying, “extreme tides today are the high tides tomorrow.”
These photos not only document these events across the state, but Crean shared an instance of MyCoast’s role in opening the conversation to address flooding issues with the Brown Street parking lot in Wickford. “There have been grants awarded to the town of North Kingstown to develop a strategy and implement a new parking lot,” Crean says, “to minimize the impacts of flooding,” which this area faces frequently during storm surges. The community’s help in collecting photos of this location helped in getting the ball rolling on designing elements including safe pedestrian walkways and docking opportunities for boats and kayaks. More information can be found on the town of North Kingstown’s website.
The MyCoast team encourages the public to download the app and photograph the impacts of storms and high-tide flooding in their communities to provide valuable input to state and local leaders on how the coastal environment is changing so they may develop strategies to address this. Visit the MyCoast website at https://mycoast.org/ri or download the app from the Google Play app store or Apple’s App Store.
ITide times below are for Newport. If you don’t live near Newport:
Add 9 minutes for Quonset
Add 13 minutes for Bristol
Add 18 minutes for Providence
Add 32 minutes for Weekapaug
Subtract 14 minutes for Block Island
* If you live on an enclosed tidal water body or salt pond, the tides can be an hour or more later than in the open ocean or bay.
Upcoming King Tides
May 25 7:51pm (1.15 ft)
May 26 8:43pm (1.22 ft)
June 23 7:35pm (1.07 ft)
June 24 8:28pm (1.2 ft)