NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 26, 2012

Forecasters fear another 'perfect storm'

(Continued)

The storm is especially worrisome to residents of Plum Island, where beach erosion is a major concern and a storm of this size could potentially wash numerous houses out to sea.

In an instance of perfect timing, officials scraped the beach to protect five vulnerable homes on Annapolis Way less than a month ago, but there are still other homes that are vulnerable.

Keenly aware of the danger and the limited time to respond, local, state and federal officials have mobilized to clear all the hurdles necessary to scrape in front of the vulnerable homes, particularly around the residence known as the Bennett Hill house, before the storm arrives, according to state Sen. Bruce Tarr.

The hill is located just south of Plum Island center, and the yellow Victorian-era home that sits at its summit has long been a Plum Island landmark. In the past few years, erosion has eaten away at the base of the sand dune hill.

Bob Connors, who has lived on Plum Island since 1979, applied for an emergency beach permit for the homes around Bennett Hill from the Army Corps of Engineers, Tarr said. The Newbury Conservation Commission has already approved the application, and now the application is working its way up through the state and federal ranks, Tarr said.

“The federal permit is contingent on some state approvals, and we traveled a good distance to get everything in order that we’re going to need,” Tarr said. “My hope and expectation is that we’re going to have approval well in advance of the onset of the storm.”

As of now, state officials have not identified any similar courses of action to protect the island center before the storm hits, Tarr said.

The impact that the storm could have on the Newburyport area varies depending on whether the storm passes to the north or to the south, according to Newburyport City Marshal Thomas Howard, who also serves as emergency management services director. The worst-case scenario would be for the storm to pass to the north, he said.

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