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Flooding strikes coastal areas

As high tide swelled an angry ocean already roiled by high winds of the Blizzard of 2013, water breached seawalls in coastal communities and members of the National Guard rushed to help evacuate residents.

In Salisbury, a storm surge of at least 20 feet rolled over the seawall, prompting evacuation of dozens of residents. In Winthrop, waves breached a seawall, sending torrents of water down streets in the Point Shirley neighborhood and flooding cars and basements. And in Scituate, water poured onto Ocean Avenue and surrounding streets, spurring frantic calls from residents trying to get out.

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The Massachusetts National Guard had 2,500 members stationed in communities along the coast. By day’s end, 5,000 are expected to be out in force to help clear debris and restore power once the need for evacuations ebbs, said Major General L. Scott Rice, adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard.

“The surge and the flooding there is definitely an issue for us,” he said. “We’re getting our high-water vehicles out there and in place to start moving people out of there.”

Rice said the Guard members are not going door to door or demanding that anyone leave, but are helping local officials, who are contacting residents, to see if they need help.

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“We’re specifically responding to emergency management in the town directing where we go,” Rice said.

National Guard members were moving in to assist local officials in Marshfield, Scituate and Weymouth after working extensively in Hull, one of the towns that was most threatened by the storm and the surge.

“Boy, they’re perfectly situated to take the brunt of all the weather that was coming -- the wind from the northeast, the storm surge, the waves hitting them,” said Rice. “They were sticking right out there in the water. And then with high tide and a two-to-four-foot storm surge, that was pretty devastating for that community.”

The storm surge in Salisbury came about an hour before the 10 a.m. high tide, surprising officials in the beach town on the New Hampshire border.

Police issued a mandatory evacuation call for 1,000 households along the beach. In the end, only about 41 people were evacuated, though it was unclear how many left on their own.

In Winthrop, police did not formally evacuate the Point Shirley neighborhood but took residents who felt unsafe in their homes to a temporary shelter at the Cummings Elementary School.

In Scituate, about 30 people sought shelter inside Scituate High School. Anthony Vegnani, vice chairman of the Scituate Board of Selectmen, said many more people are expected and officials are considering opening another shelter.

In Quincy, where the entire city was out of power, some residents fled Friday night. In the Merrymount neighborhood, one family saw their 5-foot seawall bested by the storm. Police helped the family evacuate when the waves came crashing into the front yard of their home on Chickatabot Road.

“They said it looked like a tsunami,” said Ellie O’Malley, a neighbor who took the family into her home for the night. “It was scary for the man and his two teenaged girls.”

“They said the waves were going right over the seawall,” O’Malley said.

On Plum Island, as high tide approached, Newbury officials feared pounding surf could worsen beach erosion that already threatens several homes with toppling into the sea. No mandatory evacuation was ordered, however.

And in Revere, high tide brought crashing waves, but no major flooding. Waves as high as 40 feet crashed over the seawall, flooding Revere Beach Boulevard.

Akilah Johnson, Sean P. Murphy, Kay Lazar, Kathy McCabe and Michael Rezendes of the Globe Staff contributed.
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