NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 9, 2013

50 Salisbury Beach homes evacuated

Monster waves cause serious damage to oceanfront properties

SALISBURY -- One minute they were videotaping the dark gray, ominous surf rushing under their neighbor’s house on North End Boulevard at Salisbury Beach and the next moment, Edward Bemis and his wife, Nancy, were caught in a monster wave that crashed through their sliding glass door.

The powerful surge as the 10 a.m. high tide hit swept all of the couple's belongings up in a torrent to the back of the apartment.

Pinned under the sliding glass door and 2 1/2 feet of water was Nancy Bemis.

“I grabbed the door and tried to pull it off of her – she was choking on seawater,” Edward Bemis said.

The couple's 16-year-old granddaughter, Ashley, came running, still rubbing sleep from her eyes, trying to make sense of what was happening.

Then suddenly, the Salisbury Fire Department was at their door with an Emergency Code Red evacuation order, urging them to grab what they could and board evacuation vans waiting outside.

It was a surreal experience, and one that played out in many houses up and down North End Boulevard yesterday morning as high tide coupled with a dangerous storm surge from the Blizzard of 2013 came ashore on Salisbury Beach.

According to Salisbury emergency responders, upwards of 50 dwellings were evacuated Saturday morning as the 10 a.m. high tide approached. In addition to North End Boulevard, the evacuations affected Central Avenue, including about five units inside Michael’s Ocean Front Motel, where five units were being rented long term by families and individuals.

Aside from a few people who refused to leave their homes, the evacuees were brought to the Hilton Senior Center on Lafayette Road (Route 1), a temporary shelter that was set up in advance of the storm. There, they gathered to wait out the rest of the storm before returning home or seeking alternative housing with friends or relatives.

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