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    Officials, residents gear up for Hurricane Sandy

    Hurricane Sandy roared through Cuba after taking four lives in Haiti and Jamaica on Thursday.
    Hurricane Sandy roared through Cuba after taking four lives in Haiti and Jamaica on Thursday.

    SCITUATE — On his last boat ride of the season Thursday, George Dow was enjoying clear blue skies, warm temperatures, and calm seas. The same sublime weather beckoned Judy Wainwright outdoors to bask in the sun’s rays in her oceanfront backyard.

    But Hurricane Sandy was on their minds, as it was on the minds of many Massachusetts residents. The Category 2 hurricane killed one man in Jamaica and three people in Haiti before barreling through eastern Cuba and into the Bahamas Thursday.

    By Sunday evening, the mild weather New England has been enjoying may be replaced by Sandy’s fury, which has the potential to become a “historic” storm here, according to the National Weather Service. The storm is expected to at least graze or possibly directly hit New England by early next week, according to the service.


    So Dow, of Marshfield, was pulling his 24-foot sailboat out of the harbor to safety. Wainwright, whose modern two-story home on Turner Road is protected by a massive seawall, said she and her husband had not yet decided whether to ride out the storm there.

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    “If it looks like we’re going to get slammed, we will make a reservation down at the local Harborside Inn here in Scituate,’’ said Richard Wainwright, 77, sitting on the thick concrete seawall.

    In anticipation of the impending storm, the Department of Public Works is shoring up that seawall, breached in a December 2010 storm. Officials say the wall should be secure by Friday.

    The storm’s path is not certain, and it may well veer away, but nonetheless, officials in towns such as Plymouth, Hull, Marshfield, and Newburyport are assessing their level of preparedness.

    In Plymouth, volunteers are being contacted to find out whether they are available to serve at shelters at Plymouth South High School and Plymouth Middle School, if needed.


    “We are taking the concern seriously and are getting the message to people about establishing priorities, staying in contact with family members, and looking at finding alternative housing,” if that’s necessary, said Fire Chief Robert Hollingshead. “The town is not the answer to all the problems, but basically we are trying to prepare everyone through social media and the town’s cable network.”

    On the North Shore, the Department of Public Works was checking storm drains on Plum Island to be sure they are clear and removing metal ramps leading out to the beaches, which were put down to prevent erosion from foot traffic.

    Newburyport and Newbury are working together and will meet with the US Coast Guard in the coming days to evaluate emergency evacuation plans if needed, said Thomas Howard, Newburyport’s city marshal and Emergency Management Service director.

    Marshfield police Lieutenant Paul Tabor, director of the Emergency Management Agency, feared the potential impact on the town.

    “My biggest fear is that people have not seen a big storm in many years, so I would advise residents to stay tuned to local weather and follow the instructions of emergency officials,” he said. “We may not be able to get to them in a severe storm, so taking precautions is essential.”


    Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, has been in constant contact with the National Weather Service for updates on the storm’s path. The agency has contacted cities and towns throughout the commonwealth, directing them to assess preparedness, to go over checklists, and make sure generators and backup fuel are ready.

    David L. ryan/Globe Staff
    Richard and Judy Wainwright sat on the seawall by their Scituate oceanfront home awaiting Hurricane Sandy.

    Judge said some models have the storm possibly arriving in the state late Sunday, the same date in 1991 of the devastating “Perfect Storm.”

    “Right now, we’re approaching this as a statewide event, because there is some uncertainty about the direction of the storm,” Judge said. “We don’t know if the biggest impact will be coastal flooding or flooding in the Berkshires . . . we have to play everywhere the same.’’

    Governor Deval Patrick said state utilities are slated to report to him by Friday about their plans for storm damage repairs and customer service response.

    Asked if he expected them to be better than those that faltered in 2011 after Hurricane Irene’s remnants in August and a freak snowstorm in October, he replied, “They better be.”

    On Thursday, Senator Scott Brown wrote to NStar and Unitil executives, asking the utility services to outline their plans in preparation for potential power outages in Massachusetts next week from Hurricane Sandy.

    National Grid spokeswoman Charlotte McCormack said the utility company has been monitoring the storm and has ramped up its command system and contacted contractors. “They’ll be here before the weekend so they’ll be in place before the storm gets here if that’s the path it takes,” she said.

    As officials made emergency preparations, George Dow took his sailboat out of Scituate Harbor.

    NStar spokeswoman Caroline Pretyman said the company is on high alert.

    “We’re reaching out to outside crews and contractors for any extra help we might need,’’ she said. “If a hurricane hits, there will be power outages. So it’s our job to respond as quickly and safely as possible.”

    National Weather Service meteorologist Charlie Foley said the storm has the potential to be historic. Models show that it could make landfall on the East Coast anywhere from New Jersey to Maine late Monday into Tuesday, he said.

    A marine weather statement from the Weather Service called Sandy “a dangerous and potentially life-threatening storm for mariners” with offshore seas as high as 25 feet.

    “This is something that people want to take seriously,” Foley said.

    Martin Finucane of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Melissa M. Werthmann contributed to this report. Brian Ballou can be reached at