SCITUATE -- A seawall breached in this town Saturday morning amid a lacerating nor’easter that kept pounding, dusk to dawn. Water poured onto Ocean Avenue and surrounding streets, spurring frantic calls from residents pleading for evacuation.
“I was just with the chief of police and right now every other call is an evacuation,” said Anthony Vegnani, vice chairman of the Scituate Board of Selectmen.
In fact, during a 10-minute visit with police officials, seven of the 10 calls they received were from people seeking help in evacuating their homes.
Vegnani said the seawall was breached by the storm-driven tidal surge at Humarock.
As water began pouring over the seawall and sluicing down streets, Paul O’ Connell shoveled his car out of the snow along Otis Road.
When the water “starts coming down the hill, it’s time to move the cars,” he said. “At this point, I can’t believe how swift it is.”
Overnight, ferocious winds caused buildings to tremble and trees to fall, with a massive tree trunk blocking such roads as Elm Street and Branch Street. And with the trees went the power lines. “One-hundred percent of the town is out,” Vegnani said.
About 30 people sought shelter inside Scituate High School on Saturday morning..
Meanwhile, public safety officials went on a search through neighborhoods looking for people in need.
Scituate Fire Fighter Patrick Reilly sat in the back of the brown massive brown all-terrain truck as it lumbered through the water-logged streets of the Sandy Hill and Cedar Point neighborhoods.
He and another firefighter were outfitted in special bright orange water-proof wetsuits that allowed them to slog through the icy water, chest high in some places, and reach people in need.
This was their seventh or eighth trip since 7:30 a.m. A Scituate police lieutenant drove the truck, passing cars submerged by ocean water that bursted beyond the beach. Scituate Avenue, dotted hours before with pools of water now looked like an extension of the sea. Houses raised by stilts looked as they floated on the surf.
The truck makes several stops, with some people declining the offer of assistance. For others, however, the orange clad firefighters and police in neon yellow jackets were a much needed lifeline to the outside world.
“Thank you so much,” Brenda Simon said to Reilly once comfortably seated in the military style vehicle. Simon, her friend Ed and their dog Boston Terrier Ivy left their rental home on Rebecca Road, not far from the lighthouse.
They stayed through the brunt of the storm, but with power out and temperatures dropping they decided it was time to go. “It’s just so cold, and the house is a summer house. It really wasn’t designed for this,” Simon said.
This is her first winter by the sea and she didn’t quite know what to expect. When things got bad Saturday morning, she and Ed tried to leave but found themselves trapped by ocean waters and debris. The storm surge had pushed break walls made of rocks into the street.
Linda and Gene Farnam also are newbies to the havoc wrought on seaside communities by nor’easters. They moved from Lynnfield into their Rebecca Road home in August. “We’re getting ready for retirement,” Linda Farnam said in the back of the truck.
“Some retirement,” her husband quipped.
“We didn’t know this was gonna happen,” she continued. They too tried to leave Saturday morning but found themselves trapped. Now, they were headed to the high school, where their daughters were going to pick them up.
She clutched her 4-year-old Schitzu, Jessie in her arms. “Your pooch looks cold,” Linda Farnam said to Simon as Ivy shook violently. So, off came one of Jessie’s two coats, and Farnam handed it to Simon.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said when Simon insisted on returning it later. “Consider it a gift.”Akilah Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.