GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

February 11, 2013

Heavy damage in blizzard's wake

City sees home, coastal damage; no school today


Gloucester Daily Times

---- —

GLOUCESTER — The city of Gloucester lifted its street parking ban Sunday night.

The state’s 24-hour travel ban was lifted the day before, and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority was resuming its full service — including commuter rail to and from Gloucester, West Gloucester, Rockport and Manchester.

But the need for en extended street and sidewalk cleanup led city officials Sunday to call off classes in all of Gloucester’s public schools today. And Mayor Carolyn Kirk said she expects the cleanup from the massive and ferocious Blizzard of 2013 that struck Friday and carried well into Saturday to continue for several days.

Dubbed Superstorm Nemo by The Weather Channel, which is naming winter storms recognizing when they pack a hurricane punch, the storm – striking 35 years to the week after the deadly Blizzard of ‘78 — pummeled Cape Ann with between 20 and 24 inches of snowfall, and with wind speeds that included gusts of up to 60 miles per hour.

A predicted storm triggered by the blizzard hit coastal areas of Gloucester the hardest, forcing the evacuation of at least one home on Salt Island Road, damaging other homes and properties on Shore Road, and dealing another structural blow to the Lane’s Cove seawall, which was also breached during the two-day post-Christmas storm of December 2010.

The hardest hit came on Salt Island Road, where, according to a neighbor, a large wave spawned by the surge struck at one of the upper floors of a Salt Island Road home, breaking through the windows and sending water cascading down through the interior of the house.

The Good Harbor footbridge was also uprooted off Atlantic Road during the blizzard, and there was a “significant” amount of debris along that street, Police Chief Leonard Campanello said Sunday. And Gloucester was not alone, Rockport’s Bearskin Neck buildings, restaurants and shops took heavy hits, with some residents there evacuating and moving voluntarily to a shelter set up by the American Red Cross at Rockport High School (see related story).

Although the sun was shining Sunday, Campanello said Nemo was “still an incredibly active emergency process” on Sunday, citing street conditions and the amount of snow. Campanello, who acted as the city’s emergency and public information officer throughout the storm, said city officials had received numerous calls about streets not being plowed and acknowledged a cleanup of this size takes time.

He said the Department of Public Works would be working nonstop to clear the streets, making a continuous list of problem areas.

Additionally, he thanked the DPW employees who worked to clean the roads through the weekend.

Many elements of Gloucester life returned to normal Sunday, and city officials noted that Gloucester’s trash pickups scheduled for today and throughout the week will be carried out as planned. The Rose Baker Senior Center is also reopening today in schedule, Mayor Kirk confirmed Sunday.

But she and other city officials agreed there remains much work to be done.

“While main roads are passable, there are many secondary, remote and dead-end roads which may require special equipment such as back hoes for snow operations,” Mayor Carolyn Kirk said in a “Code Red” announcement issued to residents Sunday afternoon. “Special equipment resources are limited and it will take through ... tomorrow to reach some areas.”

Although the parking ban was lifted as of 8 p.m. Sunday, Kirk urged drivers to do all they can to avid impeding further snow removal operations.

That wasn’t totally the case over the weekend. Campanello noted that, while no motorists were cited in Gloucester for violating the statewide driving ban declared by Gov. Deval Patrick from 4 p.m. Friday through 4 p.m. Saturday, some 15 cars were towed for not abiding by the city’s parking ban.

Residents who parked their vehicles in city-owned school lots over the weekend were told to have them removed by 6 a.m. today, so the Department of Public Works could plow the lots, those who parked in other municipal lots will have another day’s reprieve. Charges for parking in a municipal parking lot will not be enacted until Tuesday, Kirk said.

Officials are also working with National Grid to bring power back to remaining city residents, who lost power during the storm. That number reached a peak of about 1,000 customers who were left in the dark on Saturday, but had been narrowed to a few pockets of outages on Easter Point and in West Gloucester by Sunday. At least 33 customers in the city were still without electricity as of late Sunday — and they had been without it since early Saturday morning according to data from National Grid.

This is down from outage reports after hurricane Sandy and the winter storm of 2012 ‚ and down compared to outages in other parts of the state. National Grid reported it was dealing with a peak of 170,000 power outages throughout southeastern Massachusetts as of Saturday.

‘City officials thanked residents for their cooperation with the parking ban, which allowed plows and emergency crews to navigate the roads.

“On behalf of Mayor Kirk and all of us,” Campanello said. “thank you all for your cooperative spirit during the storm. Please stay safe during the cleanup process.”

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