EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 4, 2014

On Plum Island, waves pound rock barrier

PLUM ISLAND – Massive waves battered the shore of Plum Island during yesterday’s noon high tide, kicking up a thick ocean spray and washing at least one beachfront home’s deck out to sea.

The brunt of the tide’s fury appeared to be focused on the half-mile stretch of beachfront along Southern Boulevard, Annapolis Way and Fordham Way, an area that also suffered extensive damage in last winter’s storms. One home in particular, located at 35 Southern Boulevard, appeared to suffer the worst damage after a section of rock wall protecting the home failed, allowing the waves to scour out the sand from underneath it and smash its deck to pieces.

According to the Newbury assessor’s database, the home at 35 Southern Boulevard belongs to Helen Dolberg and is currently valued at $660,900. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom structure was first built in 1949 and had been under agreement last month before the last snowstorm scared the prospective buyer off, according to a family member.

John Rossi, Dolberg’s son-in-law, was checking on the home at high tide and said that Dolberg moved out of the house after the sale fell through and was not home when the latest snowstorm hit. He said the house did have rocks protecting it prior to the storm, and the house also held up last winter as well, when Plum Island was battered by four major storms in a span of a few months.

“You can see that the ocean is starting to make a little bit of a cut here for some reason, but it has fared no better or no worse really,” Rossi said. “Well certainly better than some of the other folks [who lost their homes], but no worse than anyone else’s.”

Last winter, six homes were destroyed on Plum Island by winter storms. Residents constructed a massive wall of loose stone along the edge of the dune, then buried it under tons of sand. The stone wall, which stretched for a few hundred yards, was meant to provide protection against storm surges by forming a continuous barrier that diverts storm-driven waves and holds the dune together. But the barrier isn’t foolproof -- strong waves over a series of high tides can tear it apart.

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