The storm surge from last Thursday’s nor’easter, which unluckily coincided with an astronomical high tide of 11.5 feet shortly after noon, inundated Provincetown’s streets and basements with startling speed. In a matter of minutes, basements on Commercial Street had six feet of water in them. The flooding in the West End was so extreme that it lifted a fire truck off the pavement. “I have never seen anything like this,” said Rich Waldo, director of the public works department.

The suddenness and extent of the flooding shocked many townspeople, but it should not have surprised them. A study done in 2015 by coastal geologist Mark Borelli mapped the inundation pathways that seawater would likely take in a so-called 100-year storm in Provincetown — that is, a flood so unusually severe that it would be expected to occur just once in a century. Last week’s flooding confirmed that Borelli’s predictions were highly accurate.

What is certainly not accurate is describing the most recent flood as a “100-year storm.” A surge nearly as large took place here in the blizzard of January 2015, just three years ago. The combined effects of the rising sea and global climate change, which is producing more severe and more frequent storms, will unquestionably result in similar and even worse calamities occurring at shorter and shorter intervals.

“Events like last week’s are going to occur annually,” says Moncrieff Cochran, an adjunct scientist at the Center for Coastal Studies, “and then several times a year. We can’t afford millions of dollars of damage every year.”

The Jan. 4 flood was “a costly wake-up call,” says Borelli. “Something is going to have to be done.”

The first thing to be done is to move beyond skepticism and denial about the reality and severity of climate change. The one piece of good news from last week’s events is that, even though we live in a highly vulnerable place in the world, we have access right here in town to extraordinarily sophisticated scientific knowledge and tools. The water rushing down Ryder Street just as predicted proved that. But we need to recognize the value of that knowledge and act on it.

“The challenge with climate change is that it feels so abstract and distant,” says Cochran. Jeff Goodell, the author of an important new book called “The Water Will Come,” writes that “we have evolved to defend ourselves from a guy with a knife or an animal with big teeth, but we are not wired to make decisions about barely perceptible threats that gradually accelerate over time.”

Now that the threat is, or should be, stunningly obvious, the question is what to do. Cochran, who is executive director of the Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative, names three things: protect property in the short term with better planning for storm surges (he believes the strategic placement of sandbags last week could have prevented a lot of damage), prepare in the long term to retreat to higher ground (“Twenty years from now Commercial Street may not be viable,” he says), and seriously reduce our collective use of fossil fuels to slow, as much as possible, the melting of the polar icecaps.

None of these options will be easy. Nothing could be more important for the future of our communities. The time to act is now. We at the Banner will be following up with specific recommendations on how town government can prepare better for the coming storms.