, Gloucester, MA

February 11, 2013

Bearskin Neck hit hard

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — While wreaking havoc with the Good Harbor Beach area of Gloucester, the Blizzard of 2013 delivered some of its harshest blows to Rockport, where the Saturday storm surge caused especially heavy damage to shops, restaurants and buildings along the town’s historic Bearskin Neck, left as many as 400 customers without power, and spurred some 50 residents to seek temporary shelter at an American Red Cross shelter set up at Rockport High School.

Frank Scalli was checking on his mother’s house, near North Road Sunday afternoon.

He was surprised to find a newly purchased grill wedged underneath the back porch of the house, as well as rocks from the nearby seawall tossed into the backyard, where they had also damaged parts of the porch.

There was significant damage to the foundation of the house as well.

My Place by the Sea, one of Cape Ann’s premier restaurants and one that sits on the tip of Bearskin Neck, lost its entire lower deck, the co-owners Barbara Stavropoulos and Kathy Milbury said Sunday. The storm surge came right under the deck, sweeping it out and leaving rocks in its place, Stavropoulos said.

“The last time it was this bad was 1978,” she said, referring to that devastating blizzard that struck 35 years to the week before the weekend storm.

But the restaurateurs, to an extent, took the storm assault with a sense of relief that the storm didn’t take a far worse toll.

“I see the damage, and I think, ‘at least it can be replaced,’” Milbury said.

Rockport’s selectmen held an emergency meeting Friday, and voted to declare a formal state of emergency for that town as well. Selectman said that declaration allows officials to call in additional town personnel, and carry out emergency spending if needed. And the National Guard and officials from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency visited Rockport to assess the damage.

Residents say that both houses and shops along the Neck were evacuated.

Beverly Bernhard, a winter resident of Bearskin Neck, said the water was nearly three feet high when waves crashed in back of her house. Bernhard said she was one of the 50 or so residents at Rockport High School, where Red Cross officials set up an emergency shelter and 12 residents stayed the night.

She applauded the efforts of emergency personnel and those operating the shelter, adding the food was delicious.

Employees of Sweats of Rockport, also on Bearskin Neck, sustained heavy storm damage resulted in broken windows, water damage and merchandise damage.

Colleen Dolan said she arrived at the store around 10 a.m. Sunday to find the floor coated with broken glass and the coats, jackets and sweatshirts frozen solid and tossed from one side of the shop to the other.

None of Cape Ann’s towns escaped the blizzard’s wrath.

In Essex, Fire Chief Dan Doucette said firefighters were stationed along the Main Street Causeway Saturday during the high tide, which came in at about 10 a.m.

Robert Coviello, who owns Robert Coviello Antiques and heads the Essex Merchants Group, got an unexpected snowfall all his own — in his Main Street store.

He said the doors to the shop blew the doors open and inward, allowing the snow to flow in.

Essex officials and National Grid were also dealing with an isolated power outage on Lufkin Point Lane due to the downed trees, but service was returned early Sunday morning, Doucette said.

In Manchester, while police said there was little structural damage done to the town by the blizzard, there was some erosion on White Beach and debris.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at