Towns on Bay State coast brace for onslaught of angry ocean

Massachusetts coastal communities are bracing for snow, rain, and winds on Thursday that are expected to whip up the ocean and flood a shoreline already ravaged by the Blizzard of 2013.

“It’s been a tough stretch with these last couple of nor’easters,” said Bruce Carlisle, director of the state’s Office of Coastal Zone Management. “We have been coordinating closely with the National Weather Service and others on trying to get the best anticipated forecast on what we can expect."

The National Weather Service is predicting high winds over a 36-hour period starting later Thursday and continuing into Friday, with gusts reaching 40 to 50 miles per hour, Carlisle said. Officials are particularly concerned with coastal flooding and erosion during high tides.

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Scituate officials announced that schools would be closed Thursday and have advised residents along the coast to evacuate “no later than three hours before high tide,” and prohibited non-emergency travel in coastal areas, according to the town’s website. Scituate High School will open as a shelter at 8 p.m tonight.

In Marshfield, crews have been working to reinforce areas hard-hit by erosion from previous storms, including the seawall protecting the town. The street side of the seawall has been filled with as much stone and gravel as possible to prevent any more erosion, which is a serious concern, said Department of Public Works Superintendent Tom Reynolds.

Homes on the back side of the seawall have already seen effects from previous storms. Some have been flooded or had their porches destroyed.

“I don’t think we have any worries in Marshfield with anything being washed away,” Reynolds said, “but then again, anything could happen.”

Town officials are hoping for mostly rain, though the high winds combined with water-soaked ground will create problems with downed trees, Reynolds said. He said the sustained winds in Marshfield, with expected gusts in excess of 40 miles per hour through Thursday night will create problems.

“We’re very vulnerable to damage with the northeast winds,” Reynolds said.

Hull officials have been meeting since Tuesday night to prepare for the storm, cautioning residents to prepare for power outages and those in low-lying areas were cautioned to seek higher ground, if possible.

“This one could be pretty hard. Concern on the coastal storm for us is when the winds blow for a couple days and that’s what happening here,” said Town Manager Philip E. Lemnios.

Officials in Nantucket are preparing by closing storm barriers and sending notifications to residents living in low-lying coastal areas, according to Dave Fronzuto, director of emergency management.

“We’re waiting for the high tide tomorrow morning,” Fronzuto said, adding that Nantucket will experience the high tide around 8 a.m. Thursday, causing water to rise 3 feet higher than normal. “We will make further preparations after that tide.”

The state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation declared a parking ban this afternoon on Winthrop Shore Drive in Winthrop, as well as Revere Beach Boulevard in Revere starting at 11 p.m. tonight until further notice, according to department spokeswoman SJ Port. The department urged caution for drivers on these roads, as the wind may carry coastal debris.

“Our main concern is our coastal residents,” said Plymouth Town Manager Melissa Arrighi, adding that the heavy snow and wind may bring on power outages in those areas. “But we don’t know what’s going to happen until we know what the storm’s going to bring.”