SCITUATE — Firefighter Patrick Reilly huddled in the back of a massive brown all-terrain truck as it lumbered through the waterlogged streets of this seaside town’s Sandy Hill and Cedar Point neighborhoods.
He and another firefighter donned fluorescent orange wet suits 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.
They were exhausted. They were bone cold.
“Been doing this since 7:30 this morning,” Reilly said Saturday afternoon as the last gasps of an epic nor’easter rolled out to sea.
A Scituate police lieutenant drove the truck, passing cars submerged by ocean water that burst beyond the beach. Scituate Avenue looked like an extension of the sea. Some houses raised on stilts appeared to float on the surf.
The truck made several stops, with some people declining offers of assistance. For others, the orange-clad firefighters and police in neon yellow jackets proved a much-needed lifeline.
“Thank you so much,” Brenda Simon said to Reilly, once she was comfortably ensconced in the military-style vehicle. Simon, her friend Ed, and their Boston Terrier, Ivy, decamped from their rental home on Rebecca Road, not far from the lighthouse.
They stayed through the brunt of the storm, but with power out and temperature plummeting, 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 water and debris. Storm surge pushed break walls made of rocks into the street.
Linda and Gene Farnam are also new to the havoc wrought on seaside communities by nor’easters. They moved from Lynnfield to 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.
They’d also 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.
Linda Farnam held her 4-year-old Shih Tzu, Jessie, in her arms. “Your pooch looks cold,” she 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 the coat later. “Consider it a gift.”
Bill Hoover wasn’t going anywhere, even if some other seaside dwellers were. He has lived on the harbor side of Cedar Point for 15 years.
“I want to protect my house,” said Hoover, a storm veteran. “You get used to it.”
He had, he insisted, everything he needed — a generator and a sturdy gas stove.
“It’s not that bad,” Hoover said, “as long as you have water.”