, Newburyport, MA

December 28, 2012

Wet and wild

Region soaked with 3.89 inches of wind-swept rain

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — NEWBURYPORT — Flooded roads, wet feet and white-knuckle driving were the norm yesterday after a powerful winter storm dumped several inches of rain and a dusting of snow on Greater Newburyport.

Snow lovers were mostly disappointed as temperatures remained well above freezing for most of the day before the thermometer dipped low enough to drop a few snowflakes starting around dinnertime. It was a different story for communities west and north of Boston that received mostly snow, making yesterday’s storm one of the whitest this season for them.

Salisbury resident Ray Whitley, who monitors weather conditions for the National Weather Service, said 3.89 inches of rain fell in the region from 8 p.m. Wednesday until almost 8 p.m. yesterday. Had it been cold enough for snow, the region would have experienced more than 2 feet of snow, he said.

The highest wind gust recorded in Salisbury was 35 mph around 2 p.m. yesterday, according to Whitley.

Perhaps the heaviest rain came earlier in the day during the region’s first high tide yesterday morning, leading to pockets of flooding that closed roads and stranded motorists.

No area seemed to be more affected by the combination of high tide and driving rain than Salisbury, which saw two main streets, Beach Road and Ferry Road, closed for hours.

Robin Weisenstein, the manager of Michael’s Ocean Front Motel on Salisbury Beach, reported the beach access next to the property was washing away by late-morning yesterday. The area outside the property at 40 Central Ave., next to Blue Ocean Music Hall, was so badly flooded it was difficult leaving the area by car, she said.

“Beach access right here at our entryway is just destroyed,” Weisenstein said. “We’re losing our beach badly. We’re ending up flooding right down to Central Avenue.”

Weisenstein said the situation yesterday was twice as bad as what she experienced during Hurricane Sandy in October, when it took four days to shovel all the sand that washed into the hotel’s parking lot back onto the beach. She worried about having the property cleaned up and the parking lot cleared in time for New Year’s Eve guests on Monday,

“Our beach is eroding right in front of us and we are constantly shoveling sand for days back on to the beach,” she said. “This is getting really, really dire.”

On Ring’s Island, flooding along 1st Street proved to be too much for Newburyport resident Noelle Bedard’s sedan, which stalled to a stop. That prompted her friend, Caylin Lee of 1st Street, to put on her rain boots and jacket and rescue her.

Lee said water was up to her waist as she waded over to Bedard’s car and allowed her friend to climb on her back. Lee carried Bedard until they reached the nearby Stripers Grille parking lot, where they waited for a tow truck to arrive.

The Merrimack River swelled so high that it flooded docks at Bridge Marina and threatened to spill over into the marina’s parking lot. Beach Road from Go Karts to the Salisbury Beach State Reservation was also flooded for several hours. Police set up roadblocks on both sides of the road, directing motorists who wanted to get to the Broadway area of Salisbury Beach to use Old County Road.

The Salisbury Beach area was also inundated with water as huge puddles covered large portions of the Beach Road and Cable Avenue intersection. Sea foam was spotted across from the police station and a firetruck was stationed at the corner of Railroad Avenue.

By 11:50 a.m., the worst appeared to be over, according to a Salisbury police officer manning one of the barricades on Beach Road.

Neighboring Seabrook was spared from flooding, save for areas prone to flooding, such as the parking lot of Brown’s Lobster Pound, according to a police official. In Rowley, a section of Route 133 was reduced to half a lane during the heaviest periods of rain.