Winds, flooding wreak havoc on Mass. as nor’easter batters state
A powerful nor’easter, marked by surging seas and battering winds, toppled power lines and flooded parts of Boston and other coastal communities in Massachusetts on Friday, the second time this year that low-lying sections of the state have been inundated.
As many residents hunkered down, tidal surges swamped the decks of luxury waterfront condos in Boston, poured through the roof of the Aquarium MBTA station, and flooded the site of the future General Electric Co. headquarters in Fort Point.
In Quincy, one of the communities hardest hit by flooding, a mother clutching her child in her arms was rescued by boat. In Woburn, a woman walking on Main Street was struck and injured by a falling tree.
Officials of coastal communities braced for another threat around midnight Friday, when a storm surge and higher waves magnified the powerful full-moon high tide.
“If you’ve been asked to evacuate by your city or your town, please do so immediately,” Governor Charlie Baker said at a news conference Friday night at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency’s State Emergency Operations Center in Framingham.
Baker said he was concerned about having to send out rescue personnel in the dark under such conditions.
In Quincy, the National Guard had helped evacuate roughly 300 people from their Sea Street homes by about 11:30 p.m., Quincy police Chief Paul Keenan said at the scene.
Some South Shore communities urged residents to stay off the roads ahead of the midnight high tide.
“The biggest message here is not to go back to your homes,’’ said Scituate Fire Chief John Murphy, who suggested residents stay away until at least Saturday afternoon.
“Do not come to Duxbury,” Police Chief Matthew Clancy said. A state of emergency would remain in effect until Saturday morning, he added.
The spectacle of seawater swamping coastal communities, including parts of Boston’s high-rent office district, once again raised concerns about how these heavily developed areas will endure rising sea levels caused by climate change. Some called the storm a preview of the extreme flooding the city can expect in the years ahead.
The weather service said high tide Friday in Boston,
which registered at 14.67 feet shortly after 11:15 a.m., was the third-highest since record keeping began in 1928, and just a few inches shy of the record of 15.16 feet, which the city set only a few weeks ago during its last major winter storm, on Jan. 4.
Around midnight, it was nearly a foot lower, at 13.87 feet, the weather service said.
The storm dropped relatively little precipitation, though, leaving just over 1 inch of rain in Boston before it subsided late Friday. Some areas of Southeastern Massachusetts were hit with 3 to 5 inches of rain, however, according to the weather service.
The warm temperatures prevented snow accumulation in the eastern part of the state, though there was as much as a foot in far Western Massachusetts.
The timing of the storm created perfect conditions for flooding, hovering over Massachusetts when above-average tides were already threatening low-lying areas. With the storm adding a potent brew of heavy rain and strong winds to the mix, the flood waters reached near-historic levels.
The areas hit hardest by flooding in Boston included the downtown waterfront, and low-lying sections of Dorchester and East Boston. Outside the city, the South Shore — including Quincy, Scituate, Marshfield, and Hull — also saw heavy flooding, with downed lines, uprooted trees, and residents stranded in their homes.
Quincy police said they were rescuing people “across the city,” and had brought in front-end loaders to “assist, as our vehicles are unable to navigate the water.”
“We can not repeat it enough,” Quincy police tweeted. “Please stay where you are if it is safe.”
Among those who received help was 12-year-old Alp Yokus, who was lifted into a rescue vehicle by firefighters outside the family’s Sea Street home in Quincy.
“When [the tide] really came up, we just stayed in, hoping,” Yokus said, as his parents stood by his side. “And after the tide went down, some firefighters came. They, like, lifted us up” to safety.
In Winthrop, firefighters rescued 15 people whose cars stalled when they tried to drive through flooded streets.
“They all drove into water up to their mirrors,” Winthrop Fire Chief Paul Flanagan said. “People hear all the time: ‘Don’t drive in the flood waters.’ But they do.”
Winthrop officials also rescued a man when his Dodge Charger was submerged in about 3 feet of water near Belle Isle Marsh, Flanagan said. A police officer had spotted the man sitting in his flooded car at about 11 a.m., just before high tide.
Winthrop also opened a shelter at its senior center. At midday, there were five people there, Flanagan said.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency reported 453,906 customers were without power as of 10 p.m. Friday. The most severe clusters of outages appeared to be on the Cape and Islands, along with a section of the North Shore.
In Woburn, a woman walking on Main Street was hurt by a falling tree and taken to a hospital with injuries not believed to be life-threatening.
By late afternoon, there were over 100 delays and 500 flight cancellations in and out of Logan International Airport.
Amtrak suspended rail service between Washington, D.C., and Boston. The MBTA’s main subway lines were operating on a mostly normal schedule but the T closed the Aquarium stop on the Blue Line after water started pouring onto the platform, and used buses to replace Green Line service between Newton Highlands and Riverside Stations after a tree fell on the tracks.
The New England Aquarium announced that it would be closed Saturday.
Delays were reported across the commuter rail system, with some trains running up to 85 minutes behind schedule, depending on the line.
In parts of Boston’s Fort Point Channel and Seaport, where some waterfront businesses closed in anticipation of the storm, the flood water easily breached seawalls, submerging streets and sidewalks.
On Congress Street, the basement bar Drink closed, as kitchen staff attempted to sweep water off the floor. Standing water was also visible through the windows at Lola, a tech company that has its office in Fort Point.
The same area was flooded during the massive winter storm on Jan. 4.
“Today’s storm, the second major flooding event in as many months, leaves no doubt that we’ve entered a new era on our waterfront,” said Kathy Abbott, president and chief executive of Boston Harbor Now, a local nonprofit.
Abbott said Boston has taken steps to try to protect the waterfront from climate change. But, “the question will be whether we can create the urgency needed to move fast enough.”
On Commercial Wharf, Ryan Sosebee, 32, and his wife, Kelly, pumped water out of the basement of their apartment in an effort to hold back the sea.
“We have sandbags,” Sosebee said. “That’s good, but it’s coming up from underneath right now.”
Sosebee said he was worried about the Friday night tide.
“I think that’s going to be the bad one,” Sosebee said. “That’s going to be the issue, the real issue.”
Boston police were deployed around the Seaport neighborhood and downtown Boston to block access to flooded roads.
There was also flooding on Atlantic Avenue near State Street, and a portion of State Street was flooded under a steady rain near the Aquarium MBTA stop.
In Revere, Eileen Mundis, who has lived on Pearl Avenue for 54 years, said the storm was worse than the legendary Blizzard of 1978, when she had 5 feet of water in her basement. Mundis stayed home from work Friday, worried she’d lose power.
“I’m scared,” she said. “If I lose my sump pump, I lose everything.”