Providence’s Hurricane Barrier, Part 1: Why It’s Here
Friday, August 26, 2011
Did you know that most of downtown Providence was severely flooded by two major hurricanes in past years? Both in 1938 and 1954 Narragansett Bay inundated the city under several feet of water as the hurricane surge rode up the bay unimpeded. The surge from The Great Hurricane of 1938 was over 13 feet in parts of the city. Again in 1954 Hurricane Carol left much of Providence under more than eight feet of water.
Federal, state and local governments and the Army Corps of Engineers took steps to assure that this would not happen again when they constructed the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier. The project was completed in 1966. The 3,000 foot long barrier is rather complex and consists of five main parts: three 40-foot-wide river gates across the Providence River, rock and earthen dykes which extend several hundred feet on either side of the river gates, vehicular gates which allow traffic flow through the dykes when the barrier is not in operation, two large canal gates which allow water flow used for cooling at the Manchester St. Power Station and a pumping station that contains five large pumps that are designed to pump water from the Providence River over the barrier and into Narragansett Bay when the gates are closed.
The barrier was successfully used in 1985 for Hurricane Gloria and in 1991 during Hurricane Bob and on a few other less threatening occasions. The proof is in the pudding... the barrier has worked perfectly. Narragansett Bay has not flooded downtown Providence since that fateful day in August 1954, well over 50 years ago.
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