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Waves breach seawall in Winthrop

Residents shoveled snow as flood waters flowed down Coral Street in Winthrop.

Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Residents shoveled snow as flood waters flowed down Coral Street in Winthrop.

WINTHROP – The Point Shirley neighborhood here was virtually inaccessible by car this morning at high tide, as angry waves from the northeast pounded and finally breached a seawall, turning streets into swiftly moving torrents of water while flooding cars and basements.

The normally breezy enclave, which features a strip of modest homes facing the northeast along Yirrell Beach, was also battered by high winds and drifting snow, leaving residents who braved the outdoors wading through hip-deep snow or up to two feet of water.

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Several long-time residents, out shoveling walks or attempting to rescue cars, said they have not seen such flooding since the historic Blizzard of ’78, although nor’easters occasionally blow surging sea water over the top of the wall.

“I’ve only seen water on this street once before,” said Stephen Howard, a 19-year resident who was shoveling his walk on Pratt Street, a short, narrow lane leading directly to the seawall.

Carol Ferrant, a resident of nearby Brewster Avenue, said she avoided basement flooding only through bitter experience: After ocean waters cresting the seawall in her front yard during the so-called “No-Name Storm” of 1991 deluged her basement, she bricked up her basement windows.

“The force of the water during that storm actually shattered the windows,” she recalled.

On Shirley Street, on higher ground, Joe McDermott leaned on his shovel and gazed at the waves crashing over the seawall just a short distance away. He said he was grateful that he moved his 90-year-old mother out of the flood zone and into his own home two days before the storm, particularly since some of the Point Shirley neighborhood was without power for much of the night.

“I’m glad she didn’t have to wake up seeing her breath,” he said.

Winthrop Police Officer James A. Freeman, interviewed at police headquarters, said police did not stage a formal evacuation of the Point Shirley neighborhood but were providing transportation to a temporary shelter at the Cummings Elementary School for residents throughout Winthrop who felt unsafe in their homes.

He also said police have not received any reports of injuries or fatalities attributable to the blizzard.

Asked if he’d ever witnessed a more intense storm, Freeman, a nine-year veteran of the force, said, “I’m from Florida.”

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