The holiday season storm — a blizzard at its core that dropped more than two feet of snow in places along the East Coast — had enough destructive force here, more than 200 miles from its epicenter, to destroy a houseboat and punch a wide hole in the Lane's Cove sea wall.
The fierce winds continued Tuesday as damage assessments began, cleanup continued and miscommunication between the city and the American Red Cross was acknowledged in the emergency response.
The city and the local Red Cross chapter did not talk of setting up a Gloucester emergency shelter until nearly 24 hours after the storm arrived from the south — with near blizzard conditions that left as many as 5,000 customers of National Grid without electricity through the overnight hours of the storm and into Monday.
By nightfall Monday, about half the outages had been eliminated, but even Tuesday morning, according to reports from National Grid, as many as 400 customers were still without utility power. Electricity had finally been restored by Tuesday evening to all but about 10 customers in Rockport, according to National Grid.
As to the need for shelter, Frederica Doeringer, executive director of the Red Cross' Northeastern Massachusetts chapter, said there was clear miscommunication in two calls from Miles Schlichte to Charles Vose, a Red Cross volunteer coordinator and member of the Cape Ann Emergency Response Team, on Monday in the late morning and early afternoon. Schlichte is the city's newly named emergency management director.
Schlichte, the two parties agree, queried Vose as to the availability of help in the opening of a shelter. Vose, according to Doeringer, responded that no resources were immediately available because they had been assigned previously to shelters in Salisbury and Rockport, but that if Gloucester requested it formally — the Red Cross would reach out for volunteers from other sections of the state to help the city.
No such request apparently was made, Doeringer said, but she acknowledged the city and the agency were not communicating effectively. She also said that Cynthia Quinn, the emergency preparedness director for the chapter, was a party to the second call from Schlichte, which was made about 12:30 p.m.
Doeringer said Rockport processed its request in a timely fashion, but she said the agency would have found resources to help Gloucester if explicitly asked.
"We don't turn our backs on people," said.
In an e-mail to the Times, Mayor Carolyn Kirk Tuesday questioned the explanation.
"I would be interested to know what constitutes a formal request," she wrote. "Our emergency management director contacted our designated Red Cross representative on at least two occasions to determine the Red Cross's capability of assisting the city.
"Given that 5,000 people were still without power, and temperatures were falling to the 12-degree range, and we had no firm commitments from the Red Cross, the city went forward with a contingency plan to provide a warm environment for citizens should they need it."
She was referring to a bare bones shelter opened at about 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Fuller School, but without any cots, food or other provisions. When no one arrived for shelter by 8 p.m., the city closed down the facility for the night.
Kirk and Doeringer acknowledged that the dis- or misconnect argued for better coordination.
"All of this will be captured and evaluated in the storm's After Action Report, and areas for improvement for all involved parties will be identified," the mayor said.
Clearing snow tonight
In terms of cleanup, the city's snow emergency parking ban are now history, but Gloucester's Department of Public Works announced plans to begin removing the shoveled snow banks from Main Street and other downtown sites at midnight tonight, with the work carrying through 6 a.m. Thursday.
The cleanup will also include Rogers Street, Dale Avenue, and Warren Street, according to an announcement from the DPW. All residents and business owners and managers should ensure that all cars are removed from those areas for the cleanup.
Beyond the downed trees, wires and stunning damage to the Lane's Cove seawall, Harbormaster Jim Caulkett said the storm also did away with one of Gloucester's handful of houseboats.
The one that vanished was identified by Caulkett as owned by Chris Young, and permanently moored — until the storm passed through on Sunday and Monday — at the mouth of the Jones River at its merge with the Annisquam.
Until it disappeared, Caulkett said the houseboat was visible from Wheeler and Thurston Points.
In terms of damage, Public Works Director Mike Hale advised residents to document losses for insurance claims.
It was unclear what aid might be available from the state, which declared an emergency on Sunday, opening the process to possible reimbursement and federal loans.
Hale said tree removal across the city would continue for weeks.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, or at email@example.com.