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Sea Level Rise Threatens Much Of Maryland

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Alex DeMetrick 370x278 Alex DeMetrick
Alex DeMetrick has been a general assignment reporter with WJZ...
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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—It’s coming and Maryland better get ready. That’s the thrust of a scientific report on sea level rise commissioned by Governor Martin O’Malley.

Alex DeMetrick reports what began in the 20th century is speeding up in the 21st.

When Hurricane Sandy hit last October, storm surge produced destructive flooding, especially in Crisfield.

“My building took a big beating. It’s the worst I’ve seen,” said one Crisfield man.

“Clearly, Crisfield took it the hardest in terms of sea level rise and the tidal surge,” said Governor Martin O’Malley.

And a sea level study is what Governor O’Malley commissioned after Sandy. The finding: more rising water along Maryland’s 3,000 miles of coastline.

“We expect by 2050 there to be as much as a foot and a half or two feet just during the first 50 years of this century,” said Dr. Donald Boesch, University of Maryland Center of Environmental Science.

That may not sound like much but it took all of the 20th century to rise a foot in Maryland. In some places, two more feet will mean change.

“This area is going to erode substantially and this park we’re sitting in is going to be underwater,” Boesch said.

In the last hundred years, island communities have vanished in the bay as water rose and land sank due to geologic subsidence. But the big threat will come with higher storm surge and the report finds 16 counties will need to prepare for it.

“Sandy cost the residents of Maryland about $41 million,” said Ken Mallette, Maryland Emergency Management Agency.

Projections of a two foot rise in sea level by mid-century will likely climb still higher by the end of the century.

“Our best estimate is 3.7 feet. Now mind you, we had a one foot of sea level rise during the 20th century, so we’re expecting three times that for this century,” Boesch said.

Impacting shorelines along the bay as well as Ocean City on the coast.

Maryland has 450 facilities and 400 miles of roads that are vulnerable to sea level rise.

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