BY ELYSE GONCALVES
Last year, winter storms hit coastal New Hampshire on January 17, bringing high waters and floods to residents and businesses of the Hampton and Seabrook area.
Beverly McCarthy, a resident of Seabrook, lives across from Route 1A and the marsh just behind it. On the day of the storm, McCarthy recalled watching the water rise across the street, blocking off Cross Beach Road, a dead-end neighborhood on the other side of Route 1A.
“You could see cars periodically going down the street… Then eventually you would see cars come and they could not pass. The road itself had been covered [by water]. And one van maybe went 10 feet and would back up. Then nobody was able to go in. What do those people do? You can’t go in, you can’t come out. You wait the hours till the tide [falls],” said McCarthy.
Each year, the sea level rises by 3.3 millimeters, or 42 trillion cubic feet of water, according to NASA Global Climate Change. Despite safety measures put forth by Hampton to protect its citizens from rising tides, including parking plans to move residents’ vehicles to higher elevation lots, the town has experienced more property damage due to flooding compared to the rest of New Hampshire, according to the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services.
Alongside those families trapped in or out of their homes, McCarthy remembered a FedEx truck driver who was stuck on the street when making deliveries to homes on Cross Beach Road. According to McCarthy, the driver waited about forty-five minutes until the tide became low enough for him to leave.
“[The FedEx truck] must have made deliveries where the homes were [on Cross Beach Road],” McCarthy said. “[In] the length of time he was there delivering, the water kept elevating…That doesn’t happen every week. That’s rare.”
Delivery companies were not the only industry affected during the storm. Markey’s Lobster Pool, a local seafood restaurant, was inundated with water during the floods. According to Chris Whitney, an employee and general kitchen manager, the back kitchen found itself in eight inches of water.
For Whitney, flooding at Markey’s is typical. According to him and former general manager Jacob Rutberg, the restaurant sits at the low point of the river on the marsh, making it susceptible to water damage at extreme high tides.
“We still stayed open,” Whitney said. “We had [customers] wait upstairs in the dining room where it was out of the water, and then everybody that worked in the kitchen that would be below water was all wearing boots… The fryers were all functional. Everything in the kitchen that was cooking was above the water.”
Markey’s had gone under new management the summer before, bringing Rutberg in with it. Thus, January of 2022 was his first experience with major flooding at the restaurant. He explained that Markey’s was more flood-proof before new ownership came in.
“We didn’t know that the water got that high,” Rutberg said. “It’s almost unbelievable… I don’t know if the water has always been that high. My sense was that it has been steadily getting higher.”
Rutberg mentioned that as the water rose, new ownership was not present. He attributed this to the sole fact that the winter at Markey’s is the off-season. According to Rutberg, the restaurant served a total of around just twenty customers during the floods.
For Markey’s, the focus after flooding is “getting back in business” as quickly as possible.
“I’m pretty comfortable and used to all the floods here, so I think we’ve pretty much got it under control,” Whitney said. “All we’re gonna have to do is get everything that needs to be up off the floor off the floor, and then basically you’re all set…. You let the water come in, it goes back out, you do the cleanup, and get back in business,” said Whitney.
According to National Geographic, with more moisture in the atmosphere due to a warming climate and rising sea temperatures, increased storm severity is predicted for 2023 and on. Local families and businesses are expected to face water damage more extreme than last year’s events.
Though the Seabrook area gets hit by flooding in its off season, damage, if not quickly repaired, lasts through tourist season in the summer. As storms intensify and ramifications worsen, Seabrook residents and local businesses like Markey’s will be forced to deal with what is to come.