By Dave Rogers
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Well before the first snowflake was expected to fall this morning as part of yet another classic New England nor’easter, Greater Newburyport communities had already begun preparing for the worst — declaring snow parking bans and placing emergency units on alert.
The storm, which is expected to deliver its first flakes around 9 a.m., should only produce a few inches of snow. But with winds as high as 50 mph, it could cause beach erosion and coastal flooding, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson.
“We’re still looking at northeast winds gusting to 45 to 50 mph from the northeast, so that’s prime coastal flooding issues,” Simpson said.
As of 4 p.m. yesterday, the National Weather Service’s Taunton office has declared a hazardous weather outlook for the entire Massachusetts coastline with winter storm warnings enacted farther inland.
The possibility of coastal flooding and beach erosion has prompted Newbury officials to keep a careful watch on the two high tides scheduled for today. The first one, which will produce waves of 8 feet or more, takes place around 10:43 a.m. or just when the brunt of the storm hits the region. But it’s the evening high tide around 11 p.m. that has Newbury officials more concerned, according to Town Manager Tracy Blais.
Plum Island residents are likely keeping a close eye on the forecast, as well, considering how much sand has been lost over the last few years. In early January, a winter storm resulted in one Plum Island home losing its front deck and the loss of several yards of sand. The storm also imperiled the iconic Bennett Hill house just off Plum Island Center to the point where residents banded together to pay an excavating company to install a rocky barrier.
Similar barriers, placed in front of several beachfront homes last March after a massive storm sent six homes into the ocean, has been credited by town officials and residents as preventing further loss of property on the island.
Annapolis Way resident Bob Connors said he and other island property owners along the water’s edge were always concerned when a coastal storm approached, but considering the likely short duration of the storm including only one or two high tides, residents were optimistic.
“I think we should be in good shape, but you never know,” Connors said.
With several weeks to go before spring, winter has proven to be particularly demoralizing even to the most hearty New Englander. Bitter cold continues to envelop the region with temperatures yesterday only reaching the 20s, far below what is typical for this time of year, upper 30s to lower 40s.
In Newburyport, Mayor Donna Holaday declared a snow emergency parking ban effective at noon today, meaning that blue lights around the city will be flashing until further notice. All off-street parking will be in effect. Any vehicles parked in on-street parking areas will be ticketed and towed.
Simpson said the region would likely experience a few inches of snowfall before it changes over to rain around lunchtime. But snowfall totals are likely to be updated often, as the snow/rain line could alter its course during the storm. Simpson said communities farther inland, such as west of Haverhill, could see more than a foot of snow.
“A classic nor’easter,” Simpson said.