NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 8, 2013

Plum Islanders race to shore up homes

PLUM ISLAND — As thousands of Greater Newburyport residents visited local stores to pick up food staples before today’s massive nor’easter struck the region, Annapolis Way homeowner Thomas Nee was in the middle of something a little more involved: trying to stop Mother Nature from claiming his beachfront property.

Yesterday afternoon, Nee was watching intently as contractors were driving lally columns into the sand beneath his house using a pneumatic driver. It is hoped the columns will prevent a large addition to the modern-looking home from falling into the ocean.

“We’re trying to save the house,” an exasperated Nee said earlier when a reporter called his house.

Worse-case scenarios predict two feet of snow and blizzard-level winds whipping up astronomically high tides tonight. Tomorrow’s 10 a.m. high tide could be the worst for the coast, as it coincides with a storm surge and heavy surf. Flooding and dune erosion are expected all along the coast.

Nee is one of a handful of Annapolis Way homeowners whose houses are in danger of crashing into the ocean after numerous storms, coupled with swelling high tides, carved away yards of sand over several years. In recent months, including a surprisingly powerful December storm, sand erosion became so problematic that the town’s building inspector warned that four homes could be lost.

Following the December surge, work crews hired by the homeowners scrambled to install a series of tube-like sandbags or coir bags along the beach to protect those homes. It is estimated the coir bags alone cost between $120,000 and $140,000, with the town pitching in $10,000 for engineering costs related to the emergency efforts.

Helping Nee in his effort was next-door neighbor Bob Connors, whose house seemed to be more secure. Operating a small earth mover, Connors helped guide at least one column and driver into place.

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