30-40 Plum Island homes vulnerable

Friday’s storm left houses collapsed off their foundations on Plum Island.
John Tlumacki/Globe staff
Friday’s storm left houses collapsed off their foundations on Plum Island.

The fury of Friday’s storm has left as many as 30 to 40 beachfront houses vulnerable on Plum Island to strong tides, on top of several homes lost over the weekend, said Newbury building inspector Sam Joslin.

“Though the structures aren’t damaged, they’ve lost all of their dune fronts, so now we have an entire stretch of beach that’s completely unprotected,” Joslin said. “With that, even a small storm at this point could become a major issue.”

Two homes on the small barrier island fell off their foundations, one was condemned, and three more are probably damaged enough to require demolition, he said.


On Monday, a coalition of local officials will meet to discuss the next steps.

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The Merrimack River Beach Alliance, made up of elected officials and private groups primarily from Newbury, Newburyport, and Salisbury, planned to meet at 11 a.m. Monday at the Plum Island Taxpayers & Associates Hall in Newbury. The meeting, which was scheduled before the storm, is open to the public.

“We’re going to begin the process of information-gathering and developing plans to deal with all those issues,” said state Senate minority leader Bruce Tarr, a Gloucester Republican who represents Plum Island and plans to attend the meeting.

Officials will explore whether homeowners whose structures were damaged by coastal erosion are covered by federal flood insurance, Tarr said.

They will also discuss a $9.25 million project to refill a jetty near the mouth of the Merrimack River with sand that had been washed away by the tides over the years.


The storm swept some sand from the north side of the jetty over the weekend, delaying the projected end date of March 15 to the end of the month.

“They’re still going to be able to keep going, but it did suffer some damage,” Tarr said.

A total of 12 beachfront houses were severely damaged during high tides in Friday’s storm, Joslin said.

Two houses, 31 and 41 Annapolis Way, were demolished Saturday. Demolition of 37 Annapolis Way, scheduled for Sunday morning, was put off until 7 a.m. Monday because the area was littered with debris, he said.

The house did not collapse completely but was deemed uninhabitable after high tides snapped at least one of its support beams and ate away at its concrete foundation Friday. The home was assessed at $836,500.


On Monday, engineers plan to inspect three houses on Fordham Way, numbers 34, 36, and 38. Joslin said the houses will probably have to be demolished as well, but homeowners could install temporary support beams so they can remove their belongings.

“It could be a month” before the houses are demolished, he said. ”We’ve just got to take it step by step.”

The house at 31 Annapolis Way was worth nearly $700,000; the house at 41 Annapolis Way was valued at $800,900.

Some of the other beachfront houses Joslin was concerned about as tides began rising Friday are temporarily uninhabitable, but can probably be repaired, he said.

“Though they may have suffered over the last few tides a little bit more, I don’t think the structures have suffered to the point of collapse,” Joslin said.

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