, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 7, 2013

Powerful blizzard expected to slam coast

NEWBURYPORT — With up to two feet of snow and a howling nor’easter predicted for tomorrow, local authorities are bracing for what may be the biggest snowstorm in two years.

The region stretching from Worcester through the lower Merrimack Valley is expected to get the worst of the storm, according to the National Weather Service. Flurries are expected to start tomorrow morning, intensifying overnight, then tapering off Saturday morning. The weather service’s snow predictions range from 18 to 24 inches, with near-blizzard conditions and wind gusts of up to 50 mph along the coast.

Late Friday night travel may become “near impossible,” the weather agency predicted, due to intense snowfall, wind gusts and drifting snow.

The storm could have severe, damaging impacts on Plum Island beachfront dunes that took a hammering from a surprise nor’easter in late December. The island’s east-facing dunes are particularly vulnerable to the gouging effect of nor’easters, and the weather service is predicting “moderate” erosion along exposed coastal areas.

The island’s leading troublespot is a 300-yard stretch running south from the island center, an area speckled with impressive homes that sit near the edge of steep dunes that drop down to the beach. The December storm stripped away over 10 feet of dune and left four homes teetering over the edge of the beach with their foundations compromised.

Massive sandbags have been brought in to provide some protection in front of the four homes, as well as four adjacent homes. The job is not quite complete — sandbags are not fully installed in front of Tom Nee’s Annapolis Way home, which requires some structural shoring up before the last sandbag can be emplaced.

At this point, there is nothing more that can be done to protect those homes, said Doug Packer, conservation administrator for the Town of Newbury.

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