Raging waves damage homes in Gloucester and Salisbury

The ocean jumped over the seawall in the town of Winthrop.
The ocean jumped over the seawall in the town of Winthrop.Getty Images

In coastal communities north of Boston, the roiling sea from the Blizzard of 2013 crashed into homes in Gloucester and Salisbury, forcing some people to flee. Others left their homes voluntarily — to witness the power of Mother Nature.

02/09/2013 PLUM ISLAND, MA Large waves crashed over the sand barriers along the beach on Plum Island as a large winter storm hit the region. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
Waves crashing on Plum Island (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe) The Boston Globe

A giant wave crashed through the second floor of a Gloucester home near Good Harbor Beach, ripping off the ocean-facing front and roof, Police Chief Leonard Campanello said.

“We anticipated possible flooding,” Campanello said shortly after noon on Saturday. “I don’t know as though we anticipated a wave reaching the second floor of a house.”

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The home on Salt Island Road overlooks the beach. A second home next door was also damaged, as waves battered the coast, and winds of 45 to 50 miles per hour swept through the North Shore city.

Police closed the roads along the back shore of Gloucester, where 1,000 people were out of power as of late morning, Campanello said.

Farther up the coast in Salisbury, storm surge of at least 20 feet rolled over a seawall, damaging at least two homes and prompting police to issue a mandatory evacuation call to 1,000 households along the beach, Police Chief Thomas Fowler said.

Only about 41 people were evacuated, although it’s unclear how many people left on their own. “We can’t make them leave,” Fowler said this afternoon.

Police ordered the evacuation at about 9 a.m., after responding to a 911 call around 9 a.m. from a couple living on North End Avenue, which runs along Salisbury Beach toward New Hampshire.

Salisbury hit hard by storm

“They said the ocean was inside their house, and they were right,” said Police Lieutenant Steve Sforza, who responded to the call. “There was sand everywhere.”

The home, a duplex, was occupied by four adults and two dogs.

Buses were transporting people to a shelter set up at a town elementary school on Route 1, Sforza said.

“We can’t force people out of their houses, but we’re telling people to leave for safety reasons,” he said.

Despite the damage to the two homes, no building collapses or injuries were reported, Sforza said.

The storm surge, which came about an hour before the 10 a.m. high tide, surprised officials in this beach town on the New Hampshire border, Sforza said.

“We had no idea the surf would be that high,” he said. “It wasn’t even high tide.”

In Newbury, a short way down the coast, high tide brought more beach erosion on Plum Island. Six homes were determined to be unsafe for occupancy after the storm had passed, Town Administrator Tracy Blais said in an e-mail.

“They cannot be occupied, pending further review,” she wrote.

Five of the homes are on Anapolis Way, a one is on Dartmouth Avenue. All are in stretch of the beach where decades of beach erosion has left many homes at risk of falling into the cold Atlantic.

“Public safety officials will be on the island, monitoring the situation through the next high tide,” Blais wrote.

Farther down the coast toward Boston, in Revere, high tide this morning brought crashing waves, but no major flooding, Fire Chief Eugene Doherty said.

“I think we were fortunate,” Doherty said by telephone at about 10:30 a.m., just after high tide. “The wind shifted. That helped us.”

Waves as high as 40 feet crashed over the seawall, flooding Revere Beach Boulevard. No homes or businesses were damaged, Doherty said.

Small pockets of flooding were confined largely to the shoreline neighborhoods of Riverside and Point of Pines, Doherty said.

“It was just localized to streets in that area,” he said. “We’re actually over the worst part.”

High tide in Manchester-by-the-Sea brought Gary Swayze to Singing Beach, with camera in hand.

“I was curious to see how far the water was going to come up,” said Swayze, who has lived in town since 1990. Just then a wave crashed over the rock seawall near him on the street. He certainly got a taste of it and definitely got his feet wet.

Timothy Girian and his 13-yr-old son, Sam, jumped aboard a Gator, a golf-cart type contraption with industrial wheels, to get a loaf of bread. Timothy said he’s used the John Deere machine in several storms. He thought the snow would be deeper in the North Shore town. Still, he was stunned by the high tide in the harbor downtown.

“It’s the highest I have ever seen it, and I have been here 15 years” he said.

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