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December 28, 2010

The damage storm left behind

Shelter mixup gets city's attention, too

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.

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