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Storms of past help Scituate cope with Sandy

SCITUATE — Mark Harrington always stays at his brother’s house during big storms that roil the ocean. But not because the house is beyond the reach of the sea.

“If we were any farther out in the water, we’d be a boat,” he said Monday afternoon, waves spawned by Hurricane Sandy crashing into kitchen windows that sit some 13 feet off the ground.

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The house, he insisted, is sturdy, raised on 18-inch concrete supports. “It’s built like a bridge,” Mark Harrington said, as his brother, Ricky, worked in his third-floor office.

And he ought to know. Harrington, a general contractor, did all the renovations 17 years ago. Ever since, the Harrington brothers have ridden out every storm thrown at them in this wooden house by the sea. “This house has been here since the 1900s, so it’s been through all the big storms,” he said, before running out to secure water cooler bottles and a propane tank rolling across the deck.

The pumpkins, though, stayed put. And Mark Harrington is confident the house will, too — just like the town’s sea wall, which fell victim in 2010 to a ferocious Christmastime storm.

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Water splashed over the patched sea wall in Scituate on Monday afternoon, but the structure held, as storm watchers took photos and collected discarded buoys.

Lisa Huffman snapped pictures of her 5-year-old daughter, Hope, with waves cresting in the background and memories drifting back to the tropical storm that lumbered up the East Coast in August 2011. “This seems worse than Irene, doesn’t it?” she asked her daughter, who nodded in agreement.

During Irene, they were able to stand right up against the sea wall and watch the storm. Now, they were separated by about 10 feet of sand.

While Huffman lives close enough to walk to the ocean, she said her family lives far enough away that flooding isn’t a problem. She was, though, worried about losing electricity.

“After Irene, we lost power for about five days, and at least that was August,” she said.

Some fears of town officials came to pass when winds felled trees — and, with them, power lines, causing darkness to descend over some neighborhoods. Town Selectman Joseph Norton said the hurricane’s prolonged winds left the entire town vulnerable. “If someone is out of power on the West End, it’s just as severe as if someone doesn’t have power at the coast,” he said.

Senator Scott Brown spoke with town officials Monday as they shut down roads in the Cedar Point section of the town, notorious for flooding. Brown, locked in a ferocious reelection battle with Democrat Elizabeth Warren, shook hands with residents. “People here are still rebuilding,” he said. “I wanted to come see what the effect would be.”

Akilah Johnson can be reached at ajohnson@globe.com.
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