News, Weather

Region braces for Hurricane Lee

Category 2 Hurricane Lee expected to pass through coastal New England early Saturday morning, North Shore Communities are preparing for high winds, rainstorms, power outages and potential coastal flooding. (Associated Press)

With Hurricane Lee expected to pass through coastal New England early Saturday morning, North Shore communities are preparing for high winds, rainstorms, power outages and potential coastal flooding.

Gov. Maura Healey declared a state of emergency Friday in advance of the expected wind, rain and coastal flooding, as well as requesting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) issue a pre-disaster emergency declaration and activate up to 50 National Guard members to provide support for storm preparations and response.

“I am declaring a state of emergency ahead of anticipated impacts from Hurricane Lee to ensure that the state can mobilize quickly to respond,” Healey said in a statement. “All of us can do our part to help our friends and neighbors – and we encourage every Massachusetts resident to make sure they are prepared for this storm.” 

According to Healey’s statement, a tropical storm warning is in effect along the entire Massachusetts coastline, as well as Cape Cod and the Islands, which have the greatest risk of seeing tropical storm force winds.

All inbound and outbound trips on the MBTA ferry from Lynn to Long Warf were closed Friday due to high winds, with all MBTA ferry lines closed throughout Saturday.

Coastal communities Lynn, Swampscott, Nahant and Marblehead, as well as inland communities of Saugus and Peabody, were all among the towns and cities in Zone A and B of the Commonwealth’s Hurricane Evacuation Zone Map, as places that may flood first from storm surge during a tropical storm or hurricane.

Lynn Fire Chief Dan Sullivan noted that though the department was not preparing for major impacts, it was important for people to be aware of flooding risks to basements, as well as potential electrical hazards.

“We don’t expect the storm to impact Lynn as much as it would Cape Cod,” Sullivan said. “That being said, we’ve made all of the companies aware of the potential for down trees, electrical hazards (and) the coastal flooding threat. They’re all aware of what the potential could be.”

Thursday evening, Swampscott’s Emergency Management team — comprising of police officers, firefighters, Department of Public Works employees and other town officials — met to plan out its storm response. 

In Swampscott, Fire Chief Graham Archer said even though the storm is expected to hit the Cape Cod region with much more intensity than it will on the North Shore, the town will likely be hit with high gusts of winds, which could cause isolated power outages. He said the storm could potentially cause localized and coastal flooding as well.

“Based on the latest forecasts and projections, we’re not expecting too severe of an impact, but that always comes with the caveat that these storms can be unpredictable,” Archer said. 

In preparation for potential road closures along the town’s coastal streets such as Humphrey Street and Puritan Road, which Archer said could possibly flood, the police department, fire department and DPW have ramped up their staffing levels. 

With Hurricane Lee’s arrival expected on the same day as the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashana, Archer said the town anticipates drivers going to and from places of worship and has allocated traffic police resources accordingly.

“You might see Humphrey Street closed. You might see a portion of pure Puritan Road closed,” Archer said. “There’ll be barriers out for areas that we’ve identified that are not safe to drive through or walk through.”

Additionally, the town published a list of safety tips in anticipation for the storm on its website Tips include securing any loose objects around one’s home that can be carried away by the wind, such as patio furniture or children’s toys, and avoiding driving or going outside during the storm.

In the event that residents have to evacuate or travel, the town’s Emergency Management team advised residents not to walk through flowing water, to stay away from closed roads, and to avoid driving on flooded streets.

 Archer, who also serves as the town’s Emergency Management Director, said power outages are likely to occur, so residents should fully charge their electronic devices in advance of the storm, stay away from and report downed power lines, and never operate a generator inside of any structure.

“I just hope everybody listens to any instructions that come from the emergency management team. Listen to the local news for updates, and just use some of our New England storm experience to face it,” Archer said.

Nahant Town Administrator Tony Barletta said the town’s Emergency Management Team met Wednesday to strategize preparations for Hurricane Lee. In anticipation of a storm surge, Barletta said the town will close all access points to the beach.

“We taped up all our stairs and barricaded our access points. We took our town float out at the wharf, and we took our Harbor Master’s boat out of the water… Those are all points where a heavy storm surge either could cause damage to the stairs or could actually use those access points for the storm surge to come up and over,” Barletta said.

In addition, Barletta said sandbags will be made available to the public at the DPW center located at 334 Nahant Road. The town’s Emergency Operation Center will be open at 8 a.m. and residents in need of service are encouraged to call 781-771-2121.

“I hope everybody stays safe. We’re definitely going to have a lot of winds, so put away any stuff that could get picked up by the wind and just stay home and ride it out,” Barletta said.

In Marblehead, Harbormaster Mark Souza released a notice on Tuesday concerning how residents who use the harbor should prepare for the potential impact the storm could have. He announced that gangways would be raised, and he advised residents to remove any and all tenders from town docks and kayaks from town racks.

Souza urged those with vessels to make any preparation they see necessary to protect them.

“We will not risk life to save property during the storm, so haul your vessel if possible,” he said in a statement. “If you are unable to haul your vessel, try to move to a safer location and/or make sure your bilge pumps are operational.”

Souza added that any loose items on boat decks should be secured as well.

Marblehead Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer added that the six departments that fall under the category of public safety are pre-staged and braced for any potential action needed.

“We’re planning and preparing for the weekend storm,” Kezer said.

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