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Scituate preps for Hurricane Irene

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  August 26, 2011 12:48 PM

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(Right) Hugh Russell and (left) Eric Therlault and Noah Hill, all from Scituate, work to take their boats out of the water in preparation of Sunday's hurricane.

Scituate officials are prepped and ready for Sunday’s hurricane, although the storm's exact effect on the coastal community is still relatively unknown.

According to Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi, every department has met to prepare for the storm. All they can do now is wait.

“We’ve done everything we can in proactive mode. Until we start being impacted, then it’s reactive mode,” she said.

In addition to convening the Emergency Management Team and getting all personnel and equipment at the ready, the town has released a barrage of warnings to residents as Irene approaches.

In a release this morning, Scituate’s building commissioner also urged residents to board up waterfront homes. Additionally, boaters have been encouraged to remove their vessels from the water.

“There is a chance of heavy winds, storm surge, surf and rain conditions that mariners and boat owners must be prepared for,” the release said. “Every boat owner should have a storm plan in mind. Boats that can be hauled out should be hauled well ahead of the storm arriving to avoid the last minute rush at local boat ramps.”

According to Scituate Harbormaster Mark Patterson, high tide should be around 11:30 p.m. on Sunday night, and at 11 feet, it will be a bit higher than normal. Storm surge is expected to be around two feet.

Although Scituate currently is expected to be on the east side of the storm – meaning more wind than water – the trepidation is still there.

“I’m concerned enough that we’re taking necessary precautions,” he said. “But there are still so many variables.”

For boaters who cannot remove their vessels from the water within the next two days, Patterson is encouraging them to check all mooring chains, chaffing gear, and double up on lines.

Boaters should also stow away any object than can become a projectile in a storm.

Residents have taken the warnings to heart. According to officials, some have started boarding up windows, and many have taken their boats out of the water.

“It’s better safe than sorry,” said Eric Therlault, 39, from Scituate, who was taking his boat out of the harbor on Friday.

Like the boaters, Fire Chief Richard Judge, who is in charge of the majority of emergency management, said the town is planning for the worst, but hoping for the best.

The shelter is at the ready, equipment has been prepped, and all department heads have been informed about what to do. At this point, however, these things are only precautionary, he said.

“It still could be anywhere, but the track it’s taking now reminds me of Bob and Gloria – lots of wind,” Judge said. “We expect trees and wires down. We have National Grid in Phase 3, with a truck dedicated just to Scituate.”

Yet with a 200-mile berth of the storm, it’s still difficult to say how hard Scituate will be hit.

“We don’t even know what time the surge will be here,” Judge said.

Not only is it important when the surge will hit, but where, said Kevin Cafferty, Scituate’s town engineer, who has been in charge of maintaining the town’s sea walls.

“We’re always concerned. Anything can go at any time,” he said.

Mindful that the sea wall breach from last December’s storm hasn't been entirely fixed as of yet, officials are keeping a keen eye on the waterfront.

“But we hope with the amount of stone there, things will hold up,” he said.

Beyond the town, state and local officials are getting ready to battle Irene.

Governor Deval Patrick has already declared a state of emergency and activated 500 National Guard soldiers; another 2,000 will be activated Saturday morning.

US Representative William Keating, a lead Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, which has jurisdiction over disaster emergency protocol and FEMA, met with the Coast Guard today to discuss emergency procedures.

Until the storm hits, all residents can do is be prepared and know who to call in case of an emergency, he said.

“As residents of a coastal district, we all know the many benefits of living on the ocean, and with those benefits come some risks,” Keating said in a release. “Hurricane Irene is a perfect example of this, and all residents should prepare for her arrival … I hope all residents make it through this weekend safely and that Irene’s impact on our beautiful area is minimal at worst.”

For tips on handling hurricanes, click here.

In the event of a power outage, National Grid (800-322-3223) and NSTAR (800-592-2000) will have crews working to restore power in the Scituate area.

If the service entry cable attached to the side of your home is damaged, power will not be restored until you have a licensed electrician repair the damage. Once repaired, your electrician should arrange for an inspection by calling the Scituate Inspections Department at 781-545-8716 and leaving a message.

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