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Along coast, officials ‘expect to lose homes during this storm’

Jay Harvey worked to board up the windows of his home on Ocean Street in the Brant Rock neighborhood of Marshfield on Thursday.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

A powerful storm is expected to lash the state’s coast into the weekend, whipping up high winds and towering waves that could destroy seaside homes and put lives in danger while dropping heavy, wet snow on interior sections of the state, officials said Thursday.

“I can’t stress this enough: This is not a snowstorm, but it’s a heck of a storm and people need to take it seriously,” Governor Charlie Baker said in a nighttime news conference in Boston.

Baker has activated the National Guard to help out in coastal communities, and he warned that the nor’easter is forecast to be more severe than the one that battered the state’s coast on Jan. 4.


“We expect to lose homes during this storm,” Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said at a news conference.

The National Weather Service cautioned that moderate to major coastal flooding is expected along the eastern shores of Massachusetts, the outer Cape and Islands; while the southern shore of the Bay State and Rhode Island are expected to see minor flooding.

“For those living along the coast, this is a LIFE & DEATH situation. Please heed the advice of local officials,” the service said on Twitter.

Baker also said that the storm, coupled with a high tide, could disrupt MBTA Blue Line service Friday afternoon. Bus shuttles would get commuters to where they are going if part of the subway temporarily shuts down, state officials said.

“We’re asking employers located in areas where flooding tends to occur — like sections of the Seaport District and the North End — to consider closing or allowing employees to work from home tomorrow,” Baker said.

The storm coincides Friday night with a full moon that will bring astronomically high tides, worsening the flooding, according to Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist with the weather service.


The service issued a winter storm warning from noon Friday to 4 a.m. Saturday for northern parts of Worcester and Middlesex counties.

Northern Worcester County could see 6 to 12 inches of snow, with 3 to 6 inches possible in the southern part of that county, Buttrick said. Given the temperatures, she said, this will be “heavy, wet snow that could bring down tree limbs and trees and create power outages.”

The service also issued a coastal flood warning for Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard from 9 a.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Sunday; a high wind warning for those areas from 10 a.m. Friday to 10 a.m. Saturday; and several other cautionary statements about the coming storm.

“This is just such a powerful system that it’s going to take on its own kind of momentum and energy,” she said. “This is a multifaceted . . . storm that will no doubt go down in the record books.”

Strong northeast wind will create swells offshore as high as 30 to 35 feet, Buttrick said, and the storm is expected to spiral southeast of Nantucket through several tide cycles, causing flooding so dramatic that it could change the land’s topography.

In Boston, she said, about 2 to 3 inches of snow is expected.

“I encourage all residents to be mindful of the storm and encourage employers to take the weather into consideration, which will mostly impact the coastal areas of our city,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh in a statement.


Boston’s public schools and other city services and agencies are expected to operate with normal hours. But already Thursday, officials announced that public schools would be closed Friday in Quincy, Duxbury, Hull, Marshfield, and Scituate, according to online postings from those districts.

“If you live in [an] area that’s told to evacuate, we strongly encourage you to do that,” Baker said.

Baker said people who evacuate might not be able to return home until late Saturday or even Sunday.

The biggest danger along the coast will be during the high tides late morning Friday, late night Friday, and midday Saturday, MEMA said.

In advance of the storm, the MBTA canceled ferries operating out of Hingham and Charlestown. The T plans to increase seating capacity on the Greenbush commuter rail line so ferry riders can complete their trips. Regular service was expected to resume Saturday.

Commuter rail crews have placed sandbags, generators, and pumps in low-lying coastal areas, and teams will salt passenger areas in places where snow accumulates before trains begin running on Saturday, according to a statement from Keolis Commuter Services, the rail line’s operator.

“We’re planning to operate a normal service and will have teams in place to deal with arising issues, although we can expect challenging conditions with such high winds, rainfall, and the tidal surges,” David Scorey, chief executive of Keolis, said in the statement.


The state Department of Conservation and Recreation was planning to close coastal beach reservations, parks, parking areas, campgrounds, ice rinks, and several parkways in Greater Boston from Thursday night until further notice, the department said in a statement.

William Day Boulevard in South Boston and the section of Morrissey Boulevard between Freeport Street and the University of Massachusetts Boston both will close at 9 a.m. Friday, the department said, and Morrissey will be closed between Freeport and Neponset Circle if necessary, as will some coastal roads in Nahant, Hull, Quincy, Revere, and Winthrop.

Jonathan L. Gulliver, highway administrator for the state Department of Transportation, said MassDOT crews have been working in recent days to clear road drainage systems and prepare for coastal flooding.

“It’s going to be very, very tough going if you’re traveling anywhere in Massachusetts tomorrow,” he said.

Residents and businesses along the coast were bracing for flooding.

People living along the east-facing shoreline of Winthrop are being encouraged to evacuate before high tide Friday.

“We’re going to have huge surf and astronomically high tides,” said Winthrop Fire Chief Paul E. Flanagan, who added that he is particularly concerned about newer residents who might not realize the potential severity of the effects.

The Duxbury Fire Department plans to use a recently acquired surplus military vehicle as a high-water rescue vehicle, according to Captain Rob Reardon.

“This vehicle allows us to get through deep water that normal vehicles can’t get through,” Reardon said.

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, and police plan to close several streets.


In Hull, officials anticipate that major flooding will make some roads impassable and create life-threatening conditions.

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 stations on Revere Beach Parkway and 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.”

Globe correspondent Elise Takahama and Joshua Miller and Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@
. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Emily Sweeney can be reached at emily.sweeney@globe.com.