By Angeljean Chiaramida
---- — As winter storm Nemo barrels its way up the East Coast, a frenzy of preparations is under way in local communities.
Although everything depends on the track the storm takes, worse-case scenarios predict two feet of snow and blizzard-level winds whipping up astronomically high tides tonight. Tomorrow morning’s 10 a.m. high tide could be the worst blow for the coast, as it coincides with a storm surge and heavy surf. Flooding and dune erosion are expected all along the coast.
Newburyport has prepared an emergency shelter at the Salvation Army, 40 Water St., according to Salvation Army Lt. Jeff Brunelle. It will be open Friday through Saturday, he said.
“If people lose heat or lose power or they have children and they are seeking emergency shelter from the storm, they are welcome to come,” he said. The Salvation Army does not have a backup generator, he said, so if the city’s power goes out, the shelter will also lose power.
Newburyport will institute its snow emergency parking ban at 6 tonight. Residents cannot park on streets; instead, they must park in designated off-street lots.
In Amesbury, Mayor Thatcher Kezer has declared a snow emergency effective today at noon through noon on Sunday. All municipal buildings will be closing at noon today. Parking on any public roadway is prohibited during the snow emergency.
Along the coast, emergency measures were in full swing yesterday in an attempt to lessen any damage that may be caused by the 3-foot storm surge and waves of up to 17 feet that the National Weather Service has predicted.
In Seabrook, a public works crew mounded sand to block the entrances of the town’s beach boardwalks onto Seabrook Beach, in hopes of keeping the tide on the shore.
“We’re building a sand berm so the ocean won’t overflow the beach and inundate the roads at the beach,” said Seabrook DPW manager John Starkey. “We do that in hopes of protecting houses, cellars and garages, too.”
Starkey said all snow removal and emergency equipment is getting checked and double checked and he’s brought in more salt, due to the expectation that a rain and sleet storm could follow on the heels of today’s blizzard.
“That’s because nothing good ever comes from rain in February,” Starkey said.
Starkey said the Public Works Department is also working with local police to clear the roads of cars and other items left on the roadways that could impede the plowing. Those who leave their cars parked along the roadways may find them towed, he added.
Seabrook Emergency Management director and Interim Town Manager Joe Titone said yesterday’s conference call with state emergency officials went well, with Gov. Maggie Hassan promising to support local communities during the storm.
The town is taking all the pre-storm precautions it usually does, said Titone, and warning residents along the beach that state officials have instituted a “flood watch” along the coast, with very high tides and almost hurricane-force winds off- shore that will stir up the sea and 10- to 20-foot waves.
Opening the Recreation Center as a shelter is a possibility if major power losses occur, he said.
Salisbury Emergency Management director Bob Cook said the town is preparing for not only high tides but lost power.
“We’re pretty certain we will be opening up the Hilton Center as a warming center for those people who lose their power and their heat,” Cook said.
Cook said last night the town used its Code Red telephone alert system to stress the winter parking ban on roadways and to urge residents to stay home and off the roads if they can.
Cook is worried about flooding at both tonight’s high tide and tomorrow morning’s, which could flood roads and homes, as well as cause erosion on the beach.
“Saturday morning’s (10 a.m.) tide is an astronomical high tide and they’re expecting a 2- to 3-foot storm surge on top of that,” Cook said. “I’m very worried about that.”