Massachusetts authorities had warned residents in some low-lying coastal shore neighborhoods to evacuate in advance of last weekend’s nor’easter. But when the storm finally struck, even police were surprised at some locations by the combination of high tide, storm surge, and waves.
Pushed by powerful northeast winds, the blizzard’s storm surge was the fourth highest for the Boston area since record keeping began in 1921, according to Weather Underground severe weather expert Jeff Masters — topped only by the blizzard of 1978, Hurricane Sandy, and the so-called “Perfect Storm” of Halloween, 1991 (“Snow measured in feet, not inches: historic Nor'easter pounds New England”).
In a few locations, the surge brought serious destruction. A rogue wave smashed into the second floor of one house in Gloucester, Mass., reported the Boston Globe (“Raging waves damage homes in Gloucester and Salisbury,” by Kathy McCabe and Kay Lazar). “We anticipated possible flooding,” Gloucester Police Chief Leonard Campanello told the Globe. “I don’t know as though we anticipated a wave reaching the second floor of a house.”
Police in Salisbury, Mass., ordered a mandatory evacuation of homes along a shore road after responding to an emergency call from a couple in a beachfront home. “They said the ocean was inside their house, and they were right,” Police Lieutenant Steve Sforza told the Globe. “There was sand everywhere.”
And in Scituate, Mass., frightened residents bombarded police with calls for help, the Globe reported (“In Scituate, the seawall breaches, and residents seek evacuation in a town without power,” by Akilah Johnson). “Every other call” to police on Saturday morning was a plea for help evacuating, town Selectman Anthony Vegnani told the paper. Firefighters in special insulated wetsuits waded through chest-deep water to evacuate stranded residents, the Globe reported.