Coastal cities brace for impact of winter storm
Cities and towns along the Massachusetts coast are preparing for a storm that is expected to send the ocean surging into streets and basements, and whip up high winds that will bring down power lines and cause outages.
The National Weather Service has issued a coastal flood warning in effect from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday for areas along the state’s east coast, including Boston, the North Shore, the South Shore, and the Cape and Islands. According to the weather service, a storm surge of 2 to 2.5 feet is possible north of Boston and 2.5 to 3 feet south of Boston.
Homes, businesses, and structures like stairs and docks near the water could be damaged, forecasters said.
Officials in coastal communities say they are hard at work, preparing for what might happen.
On the South Shore, the town of Scituate is advising residents to brace for impact, especially if they are located in flood-prone areas.
Fire Chief John Murphy said residents who live on the immediate coast should plan to evacuate early, before the storm is scheduled to wallop the area at 11 a.m. He added that people should prepare for power outages lasting up to three days and board up their homes if they live close to the water, as floating ice chunks could potentially turn into projectiles.
“We’re preparing for the worst and hoping it’s not that bad,” Murphy said.
Another concern is the seawall along Scituate’s Oceanside Drive. A project is still underway to raise it by 2 feet to help protect the community from winter storms like this. Murphy said there are older portions of the wall that officials are concerned about.
“If we get a breach, we have to deal with that, but we’re hoping the wind is going to be switching more to the north,” he said. “If it comes directly from the northeast, it could be worse.”
A list of hotels is available on the town’s website, and Scituate High School will serve as the town’s primary shelter, he said.
Marshfield officials are meeting to talk about school closings, how to deal with icy roads, and other issues, said Michael DiMeo, Marshfield harbormaster. The town is also readying shelters in case of power outages, DiMeo said.
DiMeo said officials are worried about getting roads clear before bitterly cold temperatures return Friday.
“A big concern is the winds followed by the freezing flow of arctic temperatures for Friday and Saturday,” DiMeo said. “Is that going to give us enough time to prepare the roads? It’s going to be wild.”
In Hingham, Superintendent of Public Works Randy Sylvester said the town is closing its tide gates and plows are being prepared, but he doesn’t expect any significant weather issues.
On Cape Cod, the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee says it is working with Eversource to stage crews to deal with fallen trees and power lines. The committee advised residents to stay off roads and prepare for snow, flooding, and potential power outages.
Harbors on the south side of Chatham are iced over, causing commercial fishing boats to be stuck in place, and tides are high, but no flooding has yet occurred, Chatham Coastal Resources Director Ted Keon said.
However, Keon said, the town is expecting storm surge and possible power outages Thursday.
Stuart Smith, Chatham harbormaster, said the severe winds are a major concern.
In Wellfleet, officials were also meeting to discuss preparations and advised residents to stay off roads and prepare for extreme weather.
North of Boston, the city of Gloucester has placed all its emergency services on alert for the storm, said Thomas Ciarametaro, the harbormaster.
The city is advising residents to seek shelter and stay off the roads. A parking ban will be in effect Thursday. Roads close to the shore will also be closed.
“I anticipate some coastal damage for sure,” Ciarametaro said.
In Revere, fire Chief Christopher Bright said the department is not planning for evacuations at the moment but will be prepared if necessary.
“We’ve ensured that we’ve kept everything in service, and we’ve hired additional staffing for the storm,” Bright said.
He also advised people to make sure they have basic necessities and to look out for their neighbors as well as themselves.
“Hunker down,” Bright said. “Don’t go out outside if you don’t need to.”