As the storm that began to flog Eastern Massachusetts Thursday morning continued to churn seas and dump snow late into the night, state and local officials prepared for serious coastal flooding, beach erosion, power outages, and a messy Friday morning commute.
“Our main concern is the whole east coast of Massachusetts,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Glenn Field Thursday afternoon.
Some communities could get more than a foot of snow and communities along the coast could see flooding during high tide Friday morning, according to the weather service.
Friday morning’s high tides, from about 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m., hold the potential to have a stronger impact than the tides that hit during the early February storm that caused damaging floods and beach erosion south of Boston, the weather service said in a coastal hazard message Thursday evening.
“The Friday morning high tide will be dangerous with scattered damage to vulnerable structures possible,” the message said.
In towns like Salisbury, officials are concerned that the coastal flooding, spurred by strong gusting winds and an astronomically high tide, will further damage buildings that received a beating during an early February snowstorm, which dumped more than 2 feet of snow in some areas of the state.
“We are very, very concerned about Friday morning, and we’re expecting damage to be more severe than the blizzard of Feb. 8 and 9,” said Bob Cook, Salisbury’s emergency management director, who urged residents of the Salisbury Beach area to evacuate before the tide surges. “It is a higher tide to begin with, and the other factor that plays into it is that when you have these accumulating tides, the water is not able to get all the way out before the next tide comes in.”
Homes in areas such as Plum Island, off the coast of Newbury, which have been damaged repeatedly during storms, could suffer more serious damage Friday morning, officials said.
“We’re not going to be surprised if we see some homes that are impacted, particularly up on Plum Island, where the underpinnings of some homes have been beaten up,” Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said Thursday evening.
While flooding concerns were at the forefront Thursday evening, officials were keeping a close eye on predictions of snow accumulations across the state.
A swath of towns southwest of Boston could get as much as 14 inches of snow, with amounts generally tapering to the north and west of the city, according to a snowfall forecast map released Thursday afternoon by the weather service.
The snow is expected to affect the state through Friday morning, with the heaviest snow accumulations overnight into Friday morning.
And the type of snow expected likely would bring outages.
“If we get an additional 6 to 8 inches of heavy wet snow overnight, there is the potential for power outages to be a major factor,” Judge said. “Heavy, wet snow on branches and wires with high winds . . . is a recipe for power outages.”
The heaviest snowfall, along the coast, is expected to change to scattered showers and flurries mid-afternoon.
Issuing a winter storm warning for Suffolk County, forecasters warned of 6 to 10 inches of snow in Boston, where Mayor Thomas M. Menino urged residents to refrain from driving when possible.
“The best way to help us clear the roads is to stay off them as much as possible,” Menino said. “Let the public works crews work. I’m asking residents to use common sense and stay off the roads.”
While Boston Public Schools said Thursday evening they plan to open as normal Friday. Schools in Hull will be closed in anticipation of Friday morning’s high tide and splashover onto coastal roads.
“We’re being advised to expect moderate to serious flooding and overwash on roads adjacent to the coastline,” Town Manager Philip Lemnios said.
Some communities — including Scituate, Hull, Marshfield, Salisbury, and Rockport — already reported minor to moderate flooding Thursday, according to the Office of Coastal Zone Management.
“As expected, we saw very widespread beach and dune erosion and a lot of overwash of roads and seawalls in a lot of towns with east-facing coastlines,” said Bruce Carlisle, the agency’s director.