Preparedness & Recovery

Storm Recovery Begins After Powerful Nor'easter

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency for the entire state as the storm’s high winds brought down trees Friday and Saturday

by Jack Shea, The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass. / March 5, 2018

(TNS) - By Sunday afternoon, storm clouds from the weekend nor’easter gave way to partly sunny skies, but the extreme ocean conditions continued to pummel local beaches and flood coastal roads.

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency for the entire state as the storm’s high winds brought down trees Friday and Saturday, causing hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents to lose power, while the storm surge, extreme high tides and high waves caused flooding on many coastal roads and in some homes.

Police blocked off access to parts of the beach area in Salisbury and the Plum Island Turnpike.

Dozens of people gathered at the mostly underwater Salisbury Center to witness the power of the ocean Sunday afternoon, though they often had to retreat from occasional torrents of seawater that quickly swept across the concrete.

“I’ve been here many times and I’ve never seen waves this huge before,” said Newburyport resident Joshua Bacon. “They’re wiping out so much and laying sand all over the place. It’s going to be crazy for them to clean this up.”

Tad Baker, who lives just down the street from the beach in Salisbury, said he lost power Friday but was otherwise able to carry on with his business as usual.

“I’ve just been holding down the fort all weekend,” Baker said. “I didn’t know it was this bad until I came down here.”

And while water flowed down nearby streets, Amesbury resident Donna Gleason said conditions had greatly improved since Saturday.

“It was like a running river — it was no joke,” Gleason said. “This is nothing compared to yesterday.”

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency issued a press release Sunday, urging residents to take precautions as they recover from the storm.

“Massachusetts has experienced a destructive storm that brought significant impacts across the state,” MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz said. “MEMA encourages residents to stay safe as they clean up storm damage, return to flooded homes and begin the recovery process.”

In the release, MEMA instructed residents to stay away from downed utility wires and to report them by calling 911. Residents were also asked to check on family members, friends and neighbors — especially the elderly, those who live alone, people with medical conditions, and those who may need additional assistance.

Residents can call 211 for shelter locations or disaster information, and to be connected with nonprofit social services providers.

MEMA also provided power outage safety tips, instructing residents to call their utility company to report power outages and receive restoration information, and to use generators and grills outside because their fumes contain carbon monoxide.

The state agency directed residents to stay out of damaged buildings and away from affected areas or roads until authorities deem them safe, and to never touch electrical equipment while wet or standing in water.

Residents were instructed to disinfect anything that got wet during the storm, including flooded floors and walls, which they said “should be washed with a solution of two capfuls of household bleach for each gallon of water.”

MEMA encouraged residents to have damaged septic tanks or leaching systems repaired as soon as possible to reduce potential health hazards, and to watch out for possible gas leaks.

Joe Hallisey of Pepperell came with his family to check on their summer home on Central Avenue in Salisbury. While he said the water breached nearby dunes and flowed under his house, they were lucky to find no damage to the home.

As seasoned New Englanders, Hallisey and his family agreed they were never fearful of the storm.

“We’ve been through this before — this is New England, so you’ve got to expect these things, even though this one’s a little bigger than we thought,” Hallisey said.

Salisbury resident Allen Brian said while the storm caused some inconvenience over the weekend and made it difficult to get around town, he enjoyed the spectacle that came with the high tides.

“At this point, we’ve had three days where you can’t get in or out, and in the beach community, the hours when you can get in or out are very sporadic, so you don’t know when you can go out and get food,” Brian said, fully embracing the fact he was standing in knee-deep water.

“At this point, you just have to laugh,” he said. “We’re fortunate that we’ve had power throughout the whole situation.”

Jack Shea can be reached via email at jshea@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.

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©2018 The Daily News of Newburyport (Newburyport, Mass.)

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