By Steven Fletcher Staff Writer
Gloucester Daily Times
---- — Gloucester police and fire crews are responding to a house on Washington Street just north of Grant Circle, where a tree has crashed onto the roof of a house in the face of the winds from Hurricane Sandy.
The call, reported from a neighboring home on Veterans Way, came at around 12:45 p.m., and is among the first damaging effects of the storm. There are also reports that a utility pole has crashed onto a car on the city’s Back Shore as well.
Gloucester police have reopened parts of Atlantic Road to single-lane traffic with the passing of high tide at midday, but the stepped-up winds and rain from Hurricane Sandy are expected to increase later today and tonight, with the storm itself expected to make landfall around Atlnatic City, N.J., this evening.
Gloucester’s police chief is also urging residents to stay off the shoreline.
Chief Leonard Campanello said police are detouring traffic coming onto Atlantic Road from Eastern Point Boulevard down Grapevine Road. It is a one-way closure, Campanello said. The city has also cordoned off Magnolia Pier.
“We are urging residents to stay out of harms way on the coast,” said Campanello.
In Essex, town officials were expecting flooding along the Main Street Causeway at high tide as well. Cape Ann is designated as being on alert for “moderate” coastal flooding as the storm picks up and high tides arrive at midday throughout the area again around midnight tonight. Town officials also said they expect to close the Causeway when flooding occurs.
The Essex Causeway and parts of Gloucester’s Atlantic Road are not the only transportation closures due to Sandy’s arrival, which is expected to bring wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour later today and through tonight.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority said it will suspend all service, including commuter rail service to and from Cape Ann, at 2 p.m. The MBTA has not yet announced a target time – likely tomorrow — for the resumption of service. Amtrak has shut down all of its service, including the Acela trains, along the Northeast Corridor until further notice as well.
The National Hurricane Center expects the center of Hurricane Sandy, packing winds of 85 miles per hour as of midday and still reaching some 900 miles across, to hit New Jersey, and NOAA’s National Weather Service is projecting the storm to then go inland, along a path up through Pennsylvania and New York State before swinging north and east into northern Vermont. But the breadth of the storm is expected to deliver high winds and rain to Cape Ann right through tomorrow.
Cape Ann started bracing for the storm this weekend.
All public schools —Gloucester, Rockport and Manchester Essex Regional — are closed, while Endicott College has also closed today.
The city also opened its its Emergency Operations Center in Fuller School at 6 a.m. today.
Gloucester’s municipal offices are closed as well, though Monday’s trash pickup will continue as normal until Hiltz Disposal decides to call it off, Campanello said.
While residents may be drawn to the coast to see the storm’s effects, city officials are emphasizing the need not to do so.
By staying on the coast or in the water during the storm, Campanello said residents are putting themselves and the city’s police, firefighters and paramedics in danger. Responding to calls on the water during the storm will pull public safety personnel away from other issues in the city, he added.
Gloucester has not opened an emergency shelter, but the Red Cross has opened a regional shelter at the Newbury Middle School on 63 Hanover Street in Newbury.
Eastern Essex County, including Gloucester, Salem, Newburyport, Peabody, Saugus and Beverly, is under a Coastal Flood Warning and a High Wind Warning. The coastal flood warning is in effect until 1 p.m on Tuesday. The high wind warning remains in effect until 6 a.m Tuesday.
The National Weather Service also expects between a quarter and half inch of rain today. Winds will stay at their Monday levels through Tuesday, when the Weather Service expects another half inch of rain.
We will update this story here at gloucestertimes.com as more information becomes available. To have text updates regarding storm coverage and other local breaking news, just sign up for the Times’ free text alert service on the gloucestertimes.com homepage. For more up-to-date coverage follow the Times news team on Facebook and on Twitter @gdtnews.
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Steven Fletcher may be contacted at 1-978-283-7000 x3455, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @stevengdt.