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November 26, 2008

ON THE BRINK: Officials force collapse of Plum Island house onto beach

PLUM ISLAND -- Fearing tonight's high tide would complete the destruction of a Plum Island home teetering on the eroded dune's edge, officials forced the collapse of the structure in an effort to ease the cleanup.

Crews will now have to scramble to pick up the pieces of the two-story home in advance of the next high tide before 11 p.m. tonight, before the ocean takes the rest away.

Battered by fierce wind-driven waves, the house in Plum Island Center teetered on the brink of collapse this morning as the dune it sits on was ripped apart by the sea. Its owners left the home late last night after hearing a loud crack.

The house, on 7th Street, lost roughly half of the dune on which it had sat as giant waves pelted the dune at the 10:44 a.m. high tide. Bare pilings were all that held it up.

Yesterday's storm took a heavy toll on the dunes. Winds that ranged as high as 46 knots, coming from the southeast, drove waves high against the dunes and caused several feet to be swept away. The beach is particularly vulnerable to wind-driven waves coming from eastern directions.

High tide was at 10:45 a.m. this morning, and emergency crews expected the collapse would occur during the high tide. The house remained standing, though it began to slant toward the beach as its pilings slipped. A crowd of about 20 people watched from nearby vantagepoints, and firefighters and police took up positions next to the house.

The ocean, still rough from yesterday's storm, frothed with foam. The water was filled with debris -- beams, pieces of decks, fragments of insulation and broken planks, all of which came from collapsed decks and the underside of the house.

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