Story at a glance:
- Researchers feared they might fall over the edge while conducting studies.
- The station was evacuated in March and is set for demolition later this month.
- There was a 100-foot buffer between the station and the sea, but a series of storms in 2020 rapidly eroded the land — sometimes by 6 feet a day.
The National Weather Service (NWS) station in Massachusetts is now abandoned due to safety concerns it could sink into the Atlantic Ocean.
On March 31, workers, unsettled with the station's condition, were evacuated from their Chatham location.
“We’d know for a long time there was erosion but the pace of it caught everyone by surprise,” Boston meteorologist Andy Nash said. “We felt we had maybe another 10 years but then we started losing a foot of a bluff a week and realized we didn’t have years, we had just a few months. We were a couple of storms from a very big problem.”
The demise of the weather station was written all over the establishment. The parking lot, for example, was destroyed because the surrounding area was crumbling, making the weather station just 30 feet from the edge of a cliff near the ocean.
The workers would use a balloon specialized in measuring the atmospheric conditions in the weather and research the Cape Cod area.
Nash said he feared for his and his researcher's lives, worrying that someone would inadvertently topple over the edge while looking up at the weather balloon.
“We got to the point where we ran out of a lot of space and if you were concentrating on the balloon near the edge, oh, that would not be a good situation,” Nash said. “The balloon is fairly big and full of helium but it’s not big enough to hold someone up. It would not save you.”
Before they hastily retreated from the building, workers launched a final weather balloon.
A demolition crew is slated to destroy the NWS station later this month.
Cape Cod is slowly changing shape as rising seas and stronger storms pose a more significant threat to the environment and others who work in the area, Andrew Ashton, an associate scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, said.
“It’s an extremely dynamic environment, which is obviously a problem if you are building permanent infrastructure here,” he said. “We are putting our foot on the accelerator to make the environment even more dynamic. What’s happened with the station is an indication of what we will see along the whole coast. In a way we are unprepared for how much worse things will be with climate change.”
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