PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When hurricanes and tropical storms bear down on the city of Providence, the first line of defense is the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier.
Now 50 years old, the barrier is still very functional, but it’s always in need of repairs to protect billions of dollars in interests.
“It was the result of massive flooding in ’38 and ’54,” said U.S. Sen. Jack Reed.
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The barrier has two functions: the gates block a storm surge from flooding the city and five pumps bring water out of the Providence River and into Narragansett Bay while the gates are closed.
It’s protected the city from storms such as Gloria, Bob, and Sandy. The city operated the barrier since its construction was finished, but the cost of upkeep got expensive.
“In 2005, we were able to transfer the authority for the maintenance and support of the hurricane barrier to the Corps of Engineers,” Reed explained.
“We do 24-hour monitoring of the water levels,” said Army Corps of Engineers Dept. Commander Dan Herlihy. “We’re always doing predictive analyses when we’ll have to close the gates.”
The barrier is now being updated with modern technology.
“This is sophisticated, state of the art,” added Reed. “They’ve taken analog clocks and put digital machinery in there.”
Reed helped secure about $1 million for the barrier earlier this year. He said about $18 million has been put into it in the last decade alone.
Many parts of the barrier need consistent attention. One of the pumps and one of the gates are both under repair right now, but the barrier is still ready to battle Mother Nature if needed.
Another major improvement made in the past decade is the controls can now be monitored remotely, so engineers will know if everything is working well.
All week long, Eyewitness News and the Pinpoint Weather Team will be looking a summer weather risks and uncovering new information to help you stay prepared just in case.