NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 5, 2014

Winter wallop ahead

Today's storm expected to bring 10 to 14 inches

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — NEWBURYPORT — This past weekend’s warm respite from winter proved to be short-lived, as a major snowstorm is expected to dump a foot of snow across the area today, and another storm may not be far behind.

According to the National Weather Service, the Greater Newburyport area can expect 10 to 14 inches of snow by the time the storm moves out later tonight. Coastal areas will likely see slightly less snow, while areas farther inland like Amesbury are expected to feel the brunt of the storm.

“It’s going to be wet, heavy snow,” said Alan Dunham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton. “Not like that white fluffy snow we’ve had in the previous big storms.”

Dunham said the area would see steady snowfall starting early in the morning, so people should expect a rough commute on the way to work. Hoping to get the word out well before then, the mayors of both Newburyport and Amesbury each declared snow emergencies yesterday afternoon in the hopes of keeping cars off the streets so the plows can do their jobs.

Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday said the city’s blue lights will be turned on to notify residents of the parking ban, and motorists should avoid parking on the streets until further notice starting at 6 a.m. today.

Similarly, Amesbury Mayor Ken Gray said parking on public roadways would be prohibited between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. today, and residents should move their vehicles to designated public parking areas in the meantime.

Those impacted by the storm likely won’t have long to dig themselves out either, as another major storm could be on the horizon for Sunday. While it’s too early to predict how much snow the weekend storm might bring, meteorologists with AccuWeather.com are forecasting that it could develop into a potentially destructive blizzard.

For residents of Plum Island concerned about beach erosion, the weekend storm is the one to keep an eye on. Bob Connors, a Plum Island resident who lives along the most vulnerable stretch of the island, said he’s been monitoring the surf forecasts and the numbers he’s seen for this weekend are a cause for major concern.

“Next Monday is forecasted to have real good wave energy,” Connors said. “So [today], other than the snow, I think it’ll be insignificant, but what I think is coming in this weekend is going to be much bigger.”

Connors said the coast is typically subjected to around 70 kilo Joules of wave energy on a normal day, and closer to 1,000 kJ during a storm. Last March, when six homes were lost following a major winter storm, Plum Island was subjected to more than 10,000 kJ of wave energy.

The wave energy on Plum Island during today’s storm is only expected to peak around 180 kJ early tomorrow morning, but the wave energy is expected to peak at close to 5,750 kJ on Monday afternoon, according to Surf Forecast.com.

If those numbers hold up, the storm could be the latest test for Plum Island residents who have seen the beach dune steadily creep up closer to their homes. After last winter’s destruction, residents began taking every step available to protect their homes, including some actions not sanctioned by the Department of Environmental Protection.

For example, many residents installed rock barriers in front of their homes along the coast, and those barriers were credited for helping limit the damage caused by this winter’s storms. The barrier was recently extended to protect the historic Bennett Hill house, which has served as a landmark on Plum Island for more than a century, but is now sitting precariously at the edge of its dune.