GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 9, 2013

Storm's surprise fury rips across Cape Ann

Storm's surprise fury rips across Cape Ann

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — Surprise!

Expecting first a predicted to 1-3 inches of snow, then with forecasts as of late Thursday showing accumulations of up to 6 inches but as little as 2, residents, public works and emergency crews Friday battled a stubborn storm that dumped 8-10 inches onto Gloucester and Cape Ann, delivering a storm surge that packed a punch of its own along the coast.

The storm shut down schools in Gloucester, Rockport and in the Manchester Essex Regional districts, and also closed down Rockport’s town offices while sparking a long list of Friday night cancellations. And it delivered another harsh blow to coastal properties, some of which are still reeling from the Feb. 8-9 Blizzard of 2013.

Among other problems, the snow and slippery road conditions led to a gas leak at 68 Eastern Point Road, where a woman negotiating a driveway struck the gas line and knocked off the control valve, said Gloucester Fire Chief Eric Smith.

As a result, two houses in the area — the site of the accident and another that had renovators working next door — had to be evacuated for about two hours.

The reports of the gas leak came in around 11 a.m. and police blocked off sections of Eastern Point Road due to the strong smell of gas. The situation was under control just before 1 p.m., according to Deputy Chief Andrew McRobb, as National Grid had arrived to control the gas leak. Shortly after, residents were allowed back into their homes.

Smith said the most complicated part of the incident was wading through the snow.

Meanwhile, the Cape Ann Motor Inn, which sits at the edge of Long Beach in Gloucester, saw “substantial” damage due to the storm surge, owner Brad Pierce said. As the high tide came in Friday morning, the Inn’s back steps were washed away along with parts of the back deck, he said,

As a whole, however, the city fared well and was prepared for some type of storm, according to Department of Public Works director Mike Hale. He added, however, that while the department had paid close attention, different agencies had different predictions of what weather Cape Ann would be hit with, snow or rain, and just how much.

“After a February like we just had, a lot of us were hoping for rain,” he said Friday afternoon. “It’s been a long six or seven weeks for a lot of us.”

The storm that hit Cape Ann Friday also delivered much more damp and heavy snow compared to the Blizzard.

During that storm, the Good Harbor Beach footbridge was uprooted and there was significant damage to city’s Back Shore. Friday, the bridge took another hit.

“We had nearly finished cleaning it about a week ago,” Hale said. “It wasn’t as bad as Nemo,” he added, referring to the name given to the blizzard by The Weather Channel, “but it was still problematic.”

Judging by snowfall recorded in Beverly, meteorologist Charles Foley of the National Weather Service said Cape Ann was expected to get hit with 12 inches of snow, but later reduced that number to 8 inches by Friday afternoon.

City DPW workers began to wrap up plowing Gloucester’s streets just before 3:15 p.m. Friday. Hale said the city has about 15 regularly employed drivers and 50 contractors.

Other areas of Cape Ann also saw complications due to the weather.

In Rockport, sections of Bearskin neck began to flood Friday morning as the tide was coming in. Penzance Road, Marmion Way, Beach Street and Gap Head Road all saw storm damage as well and remained closed throughout Friday.

Essex police said the town made out through the storm alright, as the Main Street Causeway only had to be closed briefly Thursday and Friday mornings.

The roads in Manchester proved difficult for some drivers, with multiple car accidents Thursday around 3:15 p.m. on Route 128 northbound; a number of cars slid off of the road and one went into a median, police said.

The windy conditions Thursday resulted in a large tree falling onto power lines on Ancient County Road around 1:45 p.m., police said.

According to National Grid’s power outage map, there were nearly 70 people in Rockport without power in the area of Phillips Avenue, but crews cleared up the problem by the end of the day.

Manchester’s DPW pulled out all the stops, calling in every plow driver available and heavily salting the roads beforehand, director Steven Kenney said.

Kenney, who has resigned and is due to leave shortly, said the road treatments worked well, but he did not foresee this much snowfall.

”I think it caught everyone by surprise,” he said.

Correspondent Nancy Gaines contributed to this report.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.