Well, it wasn't a hurricane, but the December 26 blizzard and nor'easter that rolled through New England on December 26 did hurricane-level damage in a few local areas near the Atlantic. In Scituate, Mass., on the coast south of Boston, waves kicked up by the storm pounded holes in the town's seawall and flooded some houses with 8-foot-deep waves. Two houses caught fire because of shorts in electrical wiring, and firefighters had all they could do to evacuate residents. Both homes were destroyed, according to ABC News (" Blizzard Causes Severe Flooding, Evacuations and Fires in Mass. Coastal Town ," by Olivia Katrandjian). Town Department of Public Works Director Al Bangert told ABC News, ""Firemen went out with fire extinguishers in a rescue boat used more to rescue people in the water than fight fires. They couldn't stop the fires, but they rescued a man stranded in a nearby house." Forty thousand people were without power by late Sunday morning, reported the Boston Globe (" Fading blizzard leaves behind more power outages and damaging coastal flooding ," by John R. Ellement). After the storm, utility National Grid came in for some harsh criticism following reports that the utility didn't answer firefighter calls to cut off power because of fire risks, and then was slow to send repair crews to deal with dangerous downed wires, according to the Boston Herald (" National Grid blasted for storm response ," by Thomas Grillo). "It's clear they weren't prepared," said Democratic state Rep. Jim Cantwell, "and we must have a better response from utility companies during storms." Videos of flooding, fire, and the firefighter response in Scituate, Mass. (top) were posted by YouTube user “SurfSkiWeatherMan,” , along with videos of the destruction to the Scituate seawall and several beachfront homes (bottom). Seawall damage may not qualify for federal relief funds, officials said. After the snow and winds passed by, town and state officials faced a complicated assessment task, reported the Globe (“ Officials still sizing up storm damage ,” by Beth Daley). At least 400 Scituate homes were damaged by wind, waves, or both, the paper reported. A Globe photo gallery showed a gaping hole in the town’s seawall, and the garage of one seafront house choked with mounds of beach stones and sand.
Officials were counting up the estimated dollar damage to see if the region would qualify for federal disaster relief dollars, the Globe reported (“ Tally of storm damage begins ,” by Robert Knox). But fine points in the federal formula might prevent the state or towns from receiving aid, the paper reported: damage to the Scituate seawall would likely not be included in the total or be eligible for reimbursement of repairs. Seawall destruction falls outside the normal scope of disaster relief, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency spokesman Peter Judge told the paper, because FEMA considers it to be the result of long-term exposure to rough water, rather than a single storm episode. But state Representative James Cantwell, who represents Scituate in the Massachusetts General Assembly, questioned that interpretation. Cantwell says federal law should be read as authorizing federal funding for repairs to flood-prevention infrastructure.