NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 11, 2013

On Plum Island, storm leaves behind wrecked home

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

---- — PLUM ISLAND — Plum Island Center remained closed yesterday over concerns about high tides in the wake of the Blizzard of 2013. Nearby, a weary Annapolis Way resident continued to do the little he could to keep his heavily damaged oceanfront home in one piece.

His house battered and beaten by a succession of powerful storms including this weekend’s blizzard, Annapolis Way homeowner Thomas Nee said it was time to accept the fact that neither he nor his father could live there any longer.

Saturday’s surge tide brought a ferocious pounding surf that some Plum Islanders said was the worst they have ever seen. The already vulnerable 300-yard section of beach just south of the island center took the worst of the pounding, with five homes on Annapolis Way and one on Dartmouth Avenue considered uninhabitable due to erosion damage.

Throughout the day yesterday, police were busy keeping the curious from parking at Plum Island Center. At mid-afternoon, a police officer there was heard asking for additional units to help him enforce the closure.

During the height of Saturday morning’s high tide, waves crashed up and over the beach center, sending a cascade of salty water into the center parking area and knocking some people off their feet. The high tide also flooded Plum Island Turnpike, essentially stranding everyone on the island until water levels receded.

Yesterday, Newbury police Chief Michael Reilly said the parking lot remained closed but people could still walk to the beach. Yellow tape was placed behind the endangered houses to keep people away should they fall onto the beach. Reilly added the beach could be closed at some point to allow workers to further shore up affected homes.

An astrologically high tide Saturday morning around 10 a.m. did much to convince Nee that it was time to consider a new residence, after waves demolished the 6-inch concrete floor of his father’s basement apartment and sucked out many of his belongings.

“I can’t stay here,” Nee said yesterday as he and a friend drained an oil tank of water.

Two houses over, at 41 Annpolis Way, the front patio was also all but ripped off in the storm. Both homes were unoccupied. Emergency workers closed Annapolis Way around 10:20 a.m. Saturday and wouldn’t let anybody in after the waves began to flood the street. Prior to that, Newbury’s building inspector Sam Joslin said that the Batchelder residence at 35 Annapolis Way had its gas tank pulled off the house by the surf.

The road was reopened to traffic yesterday and those who traveled it couldn’t help but see a muddy mess with debris scattered along its path.

The storm surge on Saturday was devastating.

“It’s absolute mayhem out there,” said Bob Connors of 39 Annapolis Way, at the height of the surge. “The water is coming right up to the houses.”

Emergency workers closed Annapolis Way around 10:20 a.m. and wouldn’t let anybody in after the waves began to flood the street.

“We’ve got 20-foot seas crashing in causing flooding and some structural damage to some homes that sustained damage in the last storm,” Connors said. “In my 33 years, I haven’t seen the seas this high or rough. It certainly is not a place to be going for curiosity-seekers.”

Board of Selectmen Chairman Joe Story said yesterday that high-tide events since Saturday morning have not caused additional damage.

Nee’s house, built in 1980, is one of a handful of Annapoplis Way homes in danger of being lost. A surprisingly powerful storm surge in December carved away yards of sand and sent waves crashing into a half dozen or so homes. As a result, the town’s building inspector deemed four houses — 29, 31, 35 and 37 Annapolis Way — uninhabitable. Affected homeowners quickly sprang into action, spending as much as $140,000 to install a series of tube-like coir bags that snaked in front of the affected homes.

In the hours leading up to this weekend’s historic nor’easter, which reminded many of the infamous Blizzard of 1978, Nee, with the help of contractors and next-door neighbor Connors, installed columns that were meant to keep a precarious-looking addition from tumbling down. But the waves had other ideas, churning over the coir bags and blasting away the basement foundation, essentially destroying Nee’s father’s apartment. A look underneath the foundation saw huge sections of concrete splayed over a wide area and many personal items, including several pairs of shoes, a couch and a collection of brass items damaged.

Nee said his father, who is blind, was staying at a nearby hotel until a permanent home could be found.

Nee said the house would likely remain intact as the support beams were still in place. But Nee said what he needed to consider was whether it made sense to pump in anymore money to shore up a home he can’t live in anymore. As recently as 2005, his property was appraised at $2.7 million. The value sharply decreased to $1.37 million by 2010. But after the most recent storms, Nee said he doubts the house would fetch even close to that amount.

“Nobody is going to buy this,” Nee said. “You may save the house, but there is no value to it.”

Daily News reporter Mac Cerullo contributed to this report.