GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 3, 2008

The Storm's Aftermath

Bill Kirk

The cleanup began yesterday for people whose waterfront houses were damaged or demolished in Wednesday's storm.

In some cases the damage consisted of cracked foundations and washed-out yards. In other cases, homeowners realized that what was left of their houses would have to be torn down and the homes rebuilt from scratch.

Mayor Bruce Tobey said personal property damage was assessed at about $14 million. He said people who may have lost property or work hours may apply for federal and state disaster assistance.

On Bass Rocks Road, Edward Anderson, his wife Mary and their 14-year-old son Ed picked through the rubbles of what was once a beautiful cottage perched on the rocks overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

Anderson had been sitting in his den talking on the phone about 3 p.m. Wednesday when a wave smashed through the window in front of him and washed over him. He quickly left the house.

Yesterday, vestiges of the Wednesday storm's fury remained, as 6- to 8-foot waves thundered menacingly on the rocks just a few yards from the exposed interior of the Anderson's house, now a mass of twisted metal, broken wood and saturated drywall.

What was once a den and office on the first floor was now nothing more than a platform of concrete. The furniture had been blown into the house and was piled up in the living room. Other furniture littered the road and yard. On the far wall, a bookshelf stood intact, complete with a portrait of the family.

Anderson, while realizing he will have to tear down the house and build a new one, took a healthy perspective on the damage.

"We've been through traumatic experiences in our life," he said. "Nothing was lost that can't be replaced."

All day long, as in other parts of the city, friends and neighbors arrived to help the Andersons with offers of a place to stay or a warm meal.

"We have beds and plenty of room," said one neighbor. Anderson said a friend on Bass Rocks Road had offered the use of his house for the winter.

On Brier Neck, one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in the city, the damage was more extensive than previously thought. At least six houses were severely damaged in the storm.

Tom Martin spent most of the morning salvaging what remained of his house at 26 High Rock Terrace.

The chimney column held up the roof and attic, but there were no walls left

"I don't know how it's still standing," Martin said this morning. "It's going to have to come down. It's the worst I've ever seen it."

Martin, who bought the house -- damaged -- just after the blizzard of 1978, said the damage was "far worse than the blizzard."

"I didn't have to take it down then, just replace the windows and take seaweed off the walls."

He said he stayed at the house Wednesday until about 3:30 p.m., an hour before high tide. When he left, the house was still intact.

By 7 p.m., a neighbor later told him, "it was gone." When he returned yesterday morning, he said, "I was completely devastated."

"We've done a lot of work over the years to make it a home and to lose some of that memorabilia and pictures, you can't replace those," he said. "It was a pretty tough day for the family."

He tried to salvage some items, like a player piano he's had for many years. "We tipped it up on its side and 50 gallons of water came out of it," he said, adding that it was probably a total loss.

He added that he has flood insurance but "that won't cover it."

He said he will probably do some things differently when he rebuilds the house, but that "you can't guard against a storm like that. That guy upstairs, he does what he wants to do. No amount of protection will help."

The house next to Martin's, at 24 High Rock Terrace, took almost as bad a thrashing.

A construction crew building a new house on High Rock Terrace spent all day picking up lumber which had been moved by the waves and carried over boulders about 100 yards down the street.

John Gero of Gero Construction Inc. said he and his crew worked on the house until about 2:30 Wednesday as the storm grew in intensity. But, he said, "when the waves came in the front door, we went out the back."

On Salt Island road on the south end of Brier Neck, some of the homes were severely damaged.

Workers nailed plywood sheets across the gaping holes of windows in the home of George and Carol Iacono at 54 Salt Island Road. Damage to the house was not as easily discernible from the front. But from the rocky shore, the devastation was dramatic.

As a neighbor of the Iaconos said, "It's like a giant claw came and took out a huge hunk of the house."