EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 4, 2014

Furious waves gouge dunes at beach

SALISBURY BEACH -- Powerful walls of churning surf slammed again and again against the beachfront yesterday, tearing up the sand dunes but coming well short of damaging beachfront homes.

For much of yesterday, much of Salisbury Beach Center were closed to cars as the high tide rose and surf spilled over onto Broadway. The worst of the flooding occurred between noon and 1 p.m., as the high tide pushed its way against the beach and flooded the marshes.

Despite temperatures that hovered in the single digits, the waves drew a few dozen onlookers. The sea churned furiously, with waves reaching 15 feet or more in height. They smashed into the pilings that hold up The Pavilion and Surfside 5. As the waves struck the dune, a cascade of water, foam and sand blew high into the air, then rushed like a river down along Broadway.

A steady stream of photographers snapped away furiously, trying to get the best photo of the spectacular crashing waves.

“It’s so beautiful,” said Paula Waterman, who recently moved to Salisbury with her husband Paul. They stood several feet back from the edge of the dune, but even here it was impossible to escape the rivulets of frothy water that streamed landward and managed to find their way inside even the sturdiest of boots.

“I’ve always wished to see it, and here it is,” she said.

In both Seabrook and Salisbury, officials monitored the high tides very carefully over the past two days, and although some areas saw minor flooding, erosion doesn’t appear to be a major problem in this storm. It was evident that the waves had gouged out sections of the dunes, leaving behind steep drops of 2 to 4 feet along much of the beachfront. That kind of damage is expected in Nor’easters.

According to Bob Cook, emergency management director in Salisbury, yesterday’s 1 p.m. tide caused the most concern, but the beach -- so badly affected by last February’s storm -- appears to have weathered it.

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