PLUM ISLAND — Residents who decided to stay on the barrier island to face the brunt of superstorm Sandy awoke yesterday to patches of blue sky and diminished winds — a dramatic change from the day before when gale force winds and a pelting rain threatened to wash away large chunks of beach, and with it, several homes.
Newbury and Newburyport authorities Sunday had called for a voluntary evacuation of the island as they grew fearful that emergency personnel may not be able to reach stranded residents should the storm surge flood Plum Island Turnpike. One official estimated about 20 percent of people heeded the call, many of them elderly and those with small children.
While there were reports of sand being lost along Plum Island Center and a half dozen or so residences losing power after high winds ripped power lines from their homes, for the most part, Plum Island fared better than expected.
“Everyone is breathing a sigh of relief,” Newburyport Ward 1 City Councilor Allison Heartquist said yesterday.
Heartquist, who represents Newburyport’s section of Plum Island, said coir bags placed by homeowners to protect their properties did what they were supposed to do.
“The coir bags definitely have held up,” Heartquist said.
Hurricane Sandy made landfall Monday evening along the central New Jersey coastline causing massive flooding in New York City, Atlantic City and some communities in Connecticut. More than 33 people were killed as a result and flooding shut down portions of New York City’s subway system as well as forcing officials to shut off power to large chunk of Lower Manhattan.
“I really think, that by the grace of God, we were really really blessed considering what has happened to other states,” Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday said yesterday.
While the eye of the storm stayed hundreds of miles south and a high pressure system farther north, the storm covered most of New England and generated winds as high as 80 mph in Massachusetts, according to the National Weather Service in Taunton. Winds in excess of 50 mph were recorded on Plum Island.