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Documentation and mapping of flooding from the January and March 2018 nor’easters in coastal New England

November 17, 2021

In January and March 2018, coastal Massachusetts experienced flooding from two separate nor’easters. To put the January and March floods into historical context, the USGS computed statistical stillwater elevations. Stillwater elevations recorded in January 2018 in Boston (9.66 feet relative to the North American Vertical Datum of 1988) have an annual exceedance probability of between 2 and 1 percent (between a 50- and 100-year recurrence interval). Stillwater elevations recorded in March 2018 in Boston (9.17 feet relative to the North American Vertical Datum of 1988) have an annual exceedance probability of between 4 and 2 percent (between a 25- and 50-year recurrence interval). Flood maps show that the area inundated by the January storm is slightly more extensive than that of the March storm, reflecting the respective profiles of the two storms. On the basis of a limited dataset, the attenuation of peak water levels was estimated as a function of the hydraulic distance inland and the starting stillwater elevation computed for the flood within 0.6 foot of what was measured in the field. A simple one-dimensional model was calibrated using flood elevation data collected after the January flood, and the results of the model were validated using flood elevation data collected after the March flood to model the attenuation of the flood elevations as the storms move inland.