NEWBURYPORT — The promise of one of the biggest forecasted storms in recorded history barreled into the region today, putting local officials and public safety crews on high alert and communities across the Northeast under a state of emergency.
Massachusetts will remain under a state of emergency through Saturday and the region remains under a blizzard warning until at least midday Saturday as well. Many communities instituted their own snow emergencies, with most restricting on-street parking at least into Sunday.
Shelters have been set up throughout Greater Newburyport in the event coastal residents are forced to evacuate or people find themselves without electricity and heat for extended periods.
On Plum Island, the National Guard is on alert as residents rushed to protect their homes from the storm's force. Worse-case scenarios predict more than 2 feet of snow, blizzard-level winds and astronomically high tides, with the barrier island expected to be hit hard. Four homes previously under seize from erosion are being watched closely by local as well as state officials.
A phone alert went out to all residents of Plum Island: "During the height of the storm, we may be unable to access the island because of white-out conditions and tidal flooding. This includes police, fire and ambulance service. We are positioning emergency equipment on the island but that does not guarantee our ability to respond."
Officials in both Salisbury and Seabrook were also concerned about flooding and erosion along their beaches. Salisbury Emergency Management Director Bob Cook said he feared Saturday's 10 a.m. tide the most.
"This is a very, very serious storm," Cook said.
In Massachusetts, officials issued a Severe Weather Emergency Declaration under the Wetlands Protection Act, according to Salisbury Conservation Agent Michelle Rowden. That allows mitigation measures to be taken without the need of filing a formal "notice of intent" should property near wetland areas be jeopardized.