By Allan Stein
While hoping for the best, Hull officials say the town is fully prepared for the worst snowstorm in decades – what weather forecasters are calling a “bomb cyclone.”
With the mammoth storm expected to hit the East Coast in the early morning hours today (Jan. 4), the town is braced for a triple whammy of powerful winds, blizzard conditions, and pounding ocean waves as Winter Storm Grayson sweeps across the region.
Forecasters are predicting 8 to 12 inches of snow, with an arctic blast of subzero temperatures following the storm’s departure Thursday night.
Robert Gilman, a professional meteorologist and member of Hull’s Beach Management Committee, said the intense storm will bring hurricane force winds topping 70 mph and tidal action driving sea ice in along with coastal floodwaters.
The impact of this unusual storm could prove especially damaging to beachfront properties, Gilman warned. “I haven’t seen a storm like this” — ever, he said.
Hull officials say they’ve left nothing to chance.
On Wednesday, School Superintendent Michael Devine canceled Thursday’s classes on the recommendation of Fire Chief Christopher Russo. Custodial staff is keeping the buildings warm around the clock so the pipes won’t freeze, Devine said.
“This one we called early,” the superintendent said Wednesday morning. “Every forecast predicts we are going to get hammered.”
Devine said the district sent out emails and texts alerting parents of the cancellation. If all goes as planned — and the storm is merciful — classes could resume in all three schools Friday, he said.
“We are playing it by ear,” Devine said.
Town Manager Philip Lemnios said Russo, the town’s emergency management director, has been coordinating storm preparedness ahead of the storm with his public safety officials.
“Our staff is ready. We began preparing on Tuesday in the event of significant snowfall and flooding,” Lemnios said. “We are being advised to be the most concerned with high tide on Thursday at 12:41 p.m. We are likely to experience some minor [to] moderate flooding in the northeast and north-facing locations. Temporary road closures are likely.”
All public works equipment is ready to be deployed “as needed,” Lemnios said. “We will pre-treat major roads with salt beginning late this evening [Wednesday]. Snow operations will begin early tomorrow morning.”
The department has sufficient stockpiles of sand, salt, and fuel, he said.
As a flooding precaution, the water level also has been lowered via the tide gate at Straits Pond. A Gunrock seawall contractor is addressing the work site in compliance with the town’s emergency plan, the town manager said.
“We are prepared for several days of full-scale operations if the storm requires it,” Lemnios said. “If the forecast changes, we are prepared to adjust our plans to meet the conditions as necessary.”
The town’s police, fire, and sewer departments are fully staffed and ready to respond, he said. In addition, Bay Street will be made one way temporarily to aid snow-removal efforts. The fire department’s Central, Green Hill, and Village fire substations will also be operating and fully staffed.
A Code Red reminder will be issued to residents reminding them of the winter parking bans that are in place. [To see the full list of parking restrictions, visit www.hullpolice.org.]
Lemnios said the DPW currently has eight plow/sanders and a sidewalk plow to cope with the storm. The town will hire eight to 10 contractors with various sized vehicles to assist, he said.
The Memorial Middle School will serve as an emergency operations and warming center for the duration of the storm.
"We will open a warming station at the Middle School if needed; the High School can also be added if necessary. Fire Chief Russo will determine if that is necessary,” Lemnios said.
The town manager said the estimated cost of the storm is $35,000 to $40,000 “depending on duration and supplies.”
On Wednesday, the MBTA announced that all ferry service on Thursday had been cancelled due to the storm, including all service on the Hull to Boston route.
Hingham ferry service out of the Hingham Intermodal Facility was suspended Tuesday due to ice damage to the dock, and that disruption will continue for the foreseeable future. Many Hingham commuters use the Hull boat when service to our neighboring community is disrupted.
Lemnios said town officials have not seen a “huge demand” for commuter parking at the high school as a result of the Hingham closure. However, he said there has been an increase in passenger pickup and drop-off.
By Allan Stein