Resident sticks it out on Plum Island; wave-watchers flock to Revere

10/29/2012 REVERE, MA Giacobbe Ward (cq) (left) 8, and his mother Kelli Ward (cq) of Everett, watch the waves at Revere Beach (cq) as Hurricane Sandy (cq) arrives in Massachusetts. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)
Giacobbe Ward, 8, and his mother, Kelli Ward,of Everett, watched the waves at Revere Beach as Hurricane Sandy arrived in Massachusetts.
Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Bob Connors, a resident of Annapolis Way in Newbury on Plum Island, spoke with the constant whining sound of wind in the background.

“It’s a doozie of a storm, that’s for sure. Everybody is taking the storm seriously. Everybody’s taken the proper precautions. The next 24 hours are going to let us all know how bad this storm was, what areas got hit the hardest, and what properties are at risk,” Connors said.

Connors said he decided not to voluntarily evacuate because of Hurricane Sandy, as officials had requested, because his home is newer, and is built to withstand a Category 3 hurricane

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He said he had seen “a number” of people with special needs — such as the elderly or those with special medical conditions — leave the island. The local police have set up a checkpoint coming onto the island; those who aren’t residents or part of the emergency response team can’t get on.

The midday high tide brought levels about 5 feet above normal. Connors said he’s seen 12- to 16-foot waves throughout the day. The next high tide is at midnight, and is a “concern,” Connors said.

Eight houses on Plum Island have had the beach scraped in front of them through special permits, and that’s “working as planned, providing storm protection for the homes,” he said.

In Gloucester, an emergency operations center was opened at an elementary school. Schools and courts were closed, meetings canceled. The Magnolia Pier was cordoned off. Residents were urged to stay off of it and out of harm’s way along the coast. In Swampscott and Marblehead, little traffic moved along the streets.

Many on the North Shore were also following the fate of the tall ship the HMS Bounty, which was reportedly sinking 90 miles off North Carolina’s Outer Banks after the crew abandoned ship in the storm. The 180-foot Bounty visited Newburyport this summer, docking along the waterfront for several days of tours and a benefit for Lowell’s Boat Shop in Amesbury.

The Coast Guard rescued 14 from the sinking ship and were still searching for two more crew members, according to news reports. Caleb Twombly of Groveland and his wife Rebecca met while working on the Bounty and crewed on the ship on and off in recent years, but are not currently on the crew and are both safe on land, according to Caleb’s mother, Alice Twombly.

Just before 4 p.m., Winthrop was still dealing with downed wires, telephone poles, trees, and tree limbs, as well as some blown transformers, said Town Manager James Mckenna.

“It’s all hands on deck,” McKenna said. “Every 15 to 20 minutes, we’re responding to three to six events.”

While the punishing wind gusts have been the main culprit, McKenna said he is thankful the area has not been hit with as much rain as communities south of town.

The most affected area is Point Shirley, where a number of homes have sustained roof damage from fallen tree limbs, and where there are downed wires.

With two National Grid trucks dedicated to Winthrop for the storm, McKenna said the response to power outages has been good.

Among the streets closed due to flooding are Waldemar and Woodside avenues, and Shirley Street, in addition to half a dozen smaller residential roads, he said.

As the storm intensifies, curiosity has subsided from the large crowds that gathered along the shoreline Monday morning and afternoon.

“There was tremendous ocean spray 20-30 feet in the air,” McKenna said. “Mother Nature puts on a heck of a show and you can’t help but watch.”

McKenna, who drove around town all day with the fire chief, said he expects all the storm related events to be managed as they occur.

“We’re still not out of the woods,” he said. “The wind gusts will be difficult, even through [Tuesday].”

Just north of Boston, in Revere, the tides at Revere Beach were high at midday and the storm surge strong, as punishing winds violently rattled street signs and pelted sand on the faces of curious onlookers gathered under the historic gazebo.

Despite official recommendations that people stay home, traffic was backed up along Revere Beach Boulevard. On the other end of the beach along Winthrop Parkway, the tidal gate was closed and traffic was being detoured until at least Tuesday, said Revere Fire Captain Tom Todisco.

As of 1 p.m., Sandy had not caused any major emergencies in the city, other than a tree down in an isolated area on Reservoir Avenue, Todisco said.

“The power company is there right now. They may have shut off some power there,” he said. “It’s just an isolated area so it probably doesn’t affect much of the area.”

Todisco said there have been reports of a couple of felled tree limbs, but not much else.

“It’s been pretty quiet,” Todisco said. “That’s probably a good thing.”

Public safety officials are monitoring the situation and have an evacuation plan in place depending how the storm progresses.

“If we feel we have to evacuate people, we will do that,” Todisco said.

At Renzo Brick Oven Pizzeria on Revere Beach Boulevard, Sandy was proving to be quite profitable.

Residents and wave-watchers who trekked to Revere Beach across the road stopped by for lunch and to get storm updates from newscasts blaring from the two televisions at the bar.

“This is better than a regular Monday,” said bartender Avis Surette. “We got, like, 40 people since noon. It’s the people going outside taking pictures of the water. I didn’t even think we’d get anyone in here today.”