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October 27, 2012

Beaches brace for Sandy's fury

Towns, beaches prepare in advance of hurricane

NEWBURYPORT — As Hurricane Sandy continues to churn northward toward the eastern seaboard, both government officials and local residents are preparing for what experts are calling a potentially catastrophic storm.

Three Plum Island homes had sand scraped off the beach and piled up to the dunes in front of their properties after local, state and federal officials scrambled to get the necessary permits approved in time to fortify the homes before the storm hits.

“The fact that we’re able to do this with a permit and that all three levels of government approved it is amazing,” said State Sen. Bruce Tarr, who helped coordinate the effort with the Newbury Conservation Commission and the Army Corps of Engineers to get the permits worked out.

Meanwhile, residents across the Newburyport area flooded to local hardware stores to stock up on emergency supplies. Pete Kelly, owner of Kelly’s True Value, said he has seen an influx of customers over the last few days seeking emergency generators, batteries, flashlights and other miscellaneous supplies.

“People are definitely preparing,” he said, adding that he expects the traffic to swell in the coming days before the storm hits.

Although initial forecasts looked dire for New England, experts are growing more confident that the storm will veer to the northwest and make landfall in the New Jersey area. Even if the northeast doesn’t suffer a direct hit, they say, the storm will likely still have a major impact on the area.

As of yesterday afternoon, Sandy was a Category One hurricane with sustained winds of 80 miles per hour just north of the Bahamas. The storm is expected to merge with a westward-moving cold front in the next couple of days, which could amplify the storm’s destructive capability over a much wider area.

For that reason Sandy is a unique storm in that it will not be a purely tropical system. Typically in a tropical cyclone like a hurricane, the strongest winds are concentrated near the center of the storm, but Sandy will more closely resemble a Nor’Easter on steroids and is expected to bring heavy winds to a much wider area as a result.

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