GLOUCESTER — As Massachusetts braces for a blizzard, coastal communities from Provincetown to Plum Island plan to close roads, deploy emergency vehicles, and open shelters to keep residents safe amid forecasts of surging seas and high winds.
Up and down the coast on Thursday commercial fishermen hauled in lobster traps and tied up boats in anticipation of as much as 3 feet of snow blanketing parts of Massachusetts.
“It looks like it will be nasty,” said Chuck Parisi, 60, who was stacking yellow, vinyl-coated lobster traps on land near Gloucester Harbor. “Once this area gets filled up with snow, it’s harder to store your traps.”
“It’s tie things down, move everything to the . . . side of the pier, watch and wait,” said Rex McKinsey, the Provincetown harbor master. “For the guys out on the water, we expect two or three of these a year.”
But it has been two years since the state was walloped with a big winter blast. Homeowners on the coast rushed to board up windows and pile up sandbags, to protect houses from a churning sea.
“We’re protected as much as we can be,” said Bob Connors, 56, pointing to burlap sandbags lining the beach on Plum Island in Newbury, where erosion threatens to send some homes tumbling into the sea. “But, if this storm is as big as they say it’s going to be, all bets are off.”
The National Weather Service issued a coastal flood warning Thursday, predicting that gusting, northeast winds of 60 to 70 miles an hour could trigger moderate to major flooding, particularly along the South Shore, said meteorologist Alan Dunham.
“Because of the wind direction, the most severe impact will be south of Boston, through Hull, Scituate and down there,” Dunham said. “All of that wind will be pushing the water into Cape Cod Bay.”
High tide — at 9:41 p.m. Friday and 9:57 a.m. Saturday — also poses a threat for severe beach erosion, according to the coastal flood warning.
“A blizzard is not an everyday thing,” Dunham said.
Communities along the coast are sparing no measure to protect public safety, local officials said.
“It is all hands on deck,” said Christopher Walker, spokesman for Mayor Thomas Koch of Quincy.
The South Shore city will have 50 to 60 pumps available to deal with coastal flooding, along with more than 100 pieces of heavy equipment, including snowplows, sanders, and front-end loaders.
Scituate authorities expect coastal flooding to hit Lighthouse Road and the Humarock area especially hard, and the town is encouraging voluntary evacuations. Residents were advised Thursday to start boarding up their homes. A shelter will open at 6 p.m. Friday at Scituate High School, where residents and their pets may stay, officials said.
To keep storm watchers away, several coastal roads will be closed this weekend. Previous storms, most recently Hurricane Sandy, drew far too many onlookers to Scituate’s scenic shore, said Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi.
“We’re going to have restricted access in some areas of town,” she said. “Some of the things we [talked about last time] were the number of people who were there, who don’t need to be there.”
On the North Shore, Revere will close the tidal gate on Winthrop Parkway at noon Friday. The gate, which helps prevent flooding, will remain closed through Saturday, according to a statement from Mayor Daniel Rizzo of Revere.
The town of Newbury will assign emergency personnel to Plum Island, a barrier island connected to the town by a narrow causeway.
“We are anticipating the loss of access to and from the island during the high tide cycles,” Town Administrator Tracy Blais said.
Gloucester fisherman Mike Frontiero has prepared for many a nor’easter hurtling toward the seaport city. Thursday morning, he stood on his boat, The Dunlin, preparing to button it up. “We’re just going to add a few lines and hope for the best,” said Frontiero, 54, baiting hooks for a fishing trip he hopes to take next week. “And, then, I guess, I’ll pray. . . . What else can you do?”
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