EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 7, 2013

Bracing for the worst

Officials expecting most severe coastal damage this season from storm

With forecasters predicting today’s storm to unleash more coastal destruction than has been seen all season, Salisbury officials took no chances yesterday, issuing a mandatory emergency evacuation order for all oceanfront residents.

The emergency action went into effect at 6 p.m. yesterday and will continue through at least Friday night, with the town sending out a Code Red alert to affected residents.

For days, an angry blast of winter’s worst has blown across the country, dumping heavy snow from North Dakota to Philadelphia. The National Weather Service has issued coastal flood warnings through 10 a.m. tomorrow for all north- and east-facing shores because of expected high winds, storm surges and tides.

Although New England isn’t forecast to endure record snow amounts — the risk for 6 to 12 inches of heavy wet snow is expected across eastern Massachusetts — those along the local coasts of Newburyport, Salisbury and the Seacoast are once again praying the accompanying high winds and waves don’t wipe out what’s left of their shoreline and send homes tumbling into the seas.

According to Salisbury Emergency Management director Bob Cook, the town ordered the evacuation in light of predictions that during high tides, the storm could bring 30- to 35-foot waves on top of 3- to 31/2-foot storm surges. Tonight’s high tide on Salisbury Beach is at 7:48 and tomorrow morning’s comes in at 8:11.

“That’s pretty nasty,” Cook said. “They’re saying this is going to be worse that any other storm this year.”

Cook said properties subject to the evacuation are in the areas of Central and Atlantic avenues, as well as along North End Boulevard, especially in the 400 block, which was unexpectedly hit hard during February’s blizzard.

Salisbury, with the assistance of the Red Cross, opened an emergency shelter for evacuees at 8 p.m. at the Hilton Senior Center on Route 1 next to the fire station. The shelter will remain open throughout the evacuation, expected to last through Friday evening. Residents are advised to bring with them to the shelter whatever they may need to be comfortable, Cook said.

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