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Storm ravages homes on Plum Island

NEWBURY — A swollen ocean, roiled by the winds from a strong storm off the coast during high tide this morning, has placed a dozen houses in jeopardy on vulnerable Plum Island, including one that was knocked off its foundation and teetering over the beach, the Newbury building inspector said today.

“This is absolutely the worst damage I’ve seen [in my eight years as building inspector]. We weren’t expecting this, especially because last night’s high tide was so mild,” said Sam Joslin, the building inspector.

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Shortly after 8:30 a.m., a home on Annapolis Way was ripped from its foundation and tipped at a 45-degree angle over the beach. According to neighbors, the homeowner lives in Florida during the winter, and no one was inside. The home will likely have to be demolished.

Two other houses on Annapolis Way will need to be condemned, including one two houses away that had much of its foundation eroded by the crashing waves, Joslin said.

“We’re going out at low tide to evaluate each house, and each will have its own plan of action,” he said. Joslin said two other houses on nearby Fordham Way would likely need to be condemned.

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Officials are concerned about another seven houses. Those houses cannot be occupied in their current condition, Joslin said.

Next to the home teetering over the beach was the home of Bob and Cathy Connors, which was a stressful scene this morning. Though structurally sound — the home was designed to stand on pilings in open water, according to Bob Connors — they were worried that access to the house might become impossible.

“This is a failure of action on behalf of the federal and state government,” Bob Connors said as debris from the neighbors’ homes made his house shudder every time it was washed into a support. “We’ve been predicting this since 2010, and all we get is red tape and no solutions. We have been precluded from taking tried and true actions to protect our homes because of environmental restrictions.”

The angry sea was awash in the flotsam of destruction. Everything from refrigerators to furniture to complete decks was floating in the surf, crashing into the shore with each wave.

With the tide on its way out at 10:30, homeowners and town officials were planning to inspect the properties and hopefully remove all the debris from the beach, “so it doesn’t become a projectile for the next tide,” Connors said.

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