Coastal communities brace for storm, prepare for flooding
Residents and businesses along the entire Massachusetts coast are bracing for major flooding and officials are urging them to take precautions in advance of the powerful storm that arrives Friday morning.
State officials are warning residents to be ready for heavy rain and hurricane-force winds that might cause power outages and damage to homes and buildings. They also anticipate flooding in communities along the coast, Boston Harbor, and low-lying areas.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency tweeted that residents along the coast might need to evacuate in advance of high tide Friday morning.
“Areas that receive major coastal flooding will be dangerous and rescues may not be possible,” the agency tweeted.
Scituate’s emergency management team is “strongly encouraging” residents who live on the coast and low-lying, flood-prone roads to evacuate by Friday morning. Sand and sandbags were available in the St. Mary of the Nativity Parish parking lot Thursday morning, emergency officials said.
“Astronomically high tides combined with a major coastal storm are combining to produce what is expected to be a major coastal flooding event beginning Friday morning and encompassing three high tide cycles through Saturday afternoon,” Scituate officials wrote on the town’s website.
Scituate officials anticipate the storm to be on the same scale as the No-Name Storm of 1991.
Scituate police plan to close several streets, including Front Street, Edward Foster Road, and Surfside Road, and local officials are urging people to stay off the roads during the storm.
Scituate officials wrote that they are anticipating a preliminary storm surge of 3 to 3.5 feet, with waves building to 25 to 30 feet just off shore, and sustained winds of 30 to 35 miles per hour with gusts exceeding 60 miles per hour.
Scituate officials are asking residents who evacuate to notify the town of their evacuation plans by visiting the town’s website and clicking on the “I Have Evacuated” link on the Emergency Preparedness page.
Residents along the east-facing shoreline of Winthrop are also being encouraged to evacuate before high tide Friday. Winthrop fire Chief Paul E. Flanagan said the senior center will be open “more as a comfort center than a shelter.”
“We’re going to have huge surf and astronomically high tides,” said Flanagan, who is particularly concerned about newer residents who might not realize how severe the effects might be.
Flanagan also said there are residents in town who still haven’t recovered from the flooding that occurred during the so-called “bomb cyclone” storm in January. Several residents in the area of Morton Street and the Belle Isle Marsh in Winthrop were displaced from their houses because of that flooding, he said. “They were inundated,” he said.
In the town of Hull, officials anticipate that major flooding will make some roads impassable and create potentially life-threatening conditions.
“We’re staging our assets as best we can throughout town,” said Hull fire Chief Christopher J. Russo, the director of emergency preparedness for the town.
Hull residents who live along the immediate coastline are being asked to evacuate voluntarily before 8 a.m. Friday; for those who decide to shelter in place, Hull officials are asking them to have 36 to 72 hours’ worth of supplies on hand before the storm starts.
Russo said the town has been posting regular updates on its social media accounts, and members of the police and fire departments have been going to houses on foot, knocking on doors and handing out fliers.
“If they shelter in place, we want to know where they are,” Russo said.
Russo is also concerned about residents who are relatively new to town and might not have experienced the No-Name Storm of 1991 or the Blizzard of ’78.
“I don’t believe people really know the force of nature,” he said.
Revere fire Chief Christopher P. Bright said rescue swimmers will be on duty during the storm, and rubber rafts, ropes, and flotation devices will be ready to be deployed from the station on Revere Beach Parkway and the station on Freeman Street.
Bright said that during the Jan. 4 storm, “a lot of cars got damaged” when motorists tried to drive through deep water.
“We’re trying to avoid as much of that as we can this time,” Bright said. “We’re trying to get the word out. Hopefully people will heed the advice.”
The Duxbury Fire Department recently received a surplus military vehicle that will come in handy when town roads are flooded. Duxbury fire Captain Rob Reardon said the truck came from Fort Drum in New York and was obtained by the Fire Department at no cost to the town and will be ready for use as a high-water rescue vehicle.
“This vehicle allows us to get through deep water that normal vehicles can’t get through,” Reardon said.
The high-water rescue vehicle arrived two weeks ago and the license plates were put on Thursday morning, just in time for Friday’s storm.
“It’s definitely going to be out there,” he said.
Reardon said the department received several calls from residents asking to be rescued during the Jan. 4 storm.
“We saw flooding like I’ve never seen, and I’ve been here 16 years,” he said. Reardon said he spoke to some longtime residents who said the conditions were “as bad or worse than the Blizzard of ’78.”
The department will be ready for the increased call volume during Friday’s storm, and this high-water vehicle will allow emergency personnel to reach more people in need.
“These storms, they don’t seem to be getting any better,” Reardon said. “We need to be prepared.”
Reardon said a voluntary evacuation announcement was issued for residents in low-lying and flood-prone areas Wednesday night, and on Thursday, officials were continuing to spread the word on social media.
The National Weather Service is encouraging people who live and work along the coast to be prepared for major flooding and “know alternate routes in the event roads become impassable.”
The National Weather Service also warned that the storm could result in power outages.
“Very strong wind gusts will occur Friday evening into early Saturday morning,” forecasters tweeted. “These gusts could cause property damage and numerous power outages, esp for Cape & Islands.”
The National Weather Service tweeted out some advice for dealing with power outages: Check your flashlight and radio batteries; charge your mobile phone; keep your gas tank full; get cash out from your bank (in case ATMs stop working); and only use generators in open areas away from windows and buildings.