By Susan Ovans
The head of Hull’s Emergency Management Team urged residents who live in east- and northeast-facing homes along the beach to “move inland” in advance of the storm that’s expected to arrive tonight and linger well into the weekend.
“All storm predictions are consistent,” Fire Chief Christopher Russo said this morning. “We’re going to have heavy rain, winds that are 25-35 miles-per-hour sustained – with gusts to 60 – for the better part of 36 hours, astronomical high tides, a full moon, and a storm surge of two to four feet… That’s dangerous.”
The wind will drive waves further inland than is normal, Russo said, which means that some areas that are not generally flood-prone are likely to take on water.
Wave heights offshore are expected to run 15 to 25 feet during the day tomorrow, and 35 feet or more Friday night into Saturday, Russo said in a post Wednesday afternoon on the Town of Hull Emergency Management page on Facebook.
The wave action will create “major flooding with impassable roads,” the chief said.
Hull public safety personnel met several times since early this week, the chief said, and the town’s storm readiness plan has been activated.
“We pulled out all the stops. All departments have canceled time off and called in personnel. We’ve pre-positioned assets from National Grid and the National Guard, including high-water vehicles. We’re communicating with MEMA, FEMA [the state and federal emergency management agencies], and the State Police… all entities are coming together.”
Although the town’s storm preparation is a finely-tuned process, Russo admits that there are aspects he cannot control: the capriciousness of weather and of human beings being chief among them.
“We keep saying that, at some point, people need to prepare and take ownership of their actions. You cannot expect 25 firefighters and police officers to move 25 percent of the town’s population out of harm’s way at the height of the storm.
“FEMA is not coming. MEMA is not coming. We’re a peninsula, and that’s tremendous pressure on first responders.”
Russo said that those who plan to evacuate should do so before 8 a.m. Friday. Those who plan to shelter in place should be prepared to be there through Saturday afternoon, at least.
Tonight’s high tide is at 10:59 p.m.
High tides on Friday are 11:17 a.m. and 11:48 p.m.
High tide Saturday is 12:06 p.m. and just after midnight Sunday.
Tide projections are 10.1 feet today and around 11 feet at high tide Friday and Saturday, without accounting for storm surge, so it’s easy to see why Russo is warning residents to plan ahead.
“We’re now seeing significant bayside flooding with tides at 11 feet,” he said. “At 13 feet, there’s coastal flooding everywhere. At 14 feet, that exceeds what we can handle.”
In his 7 a.m. Facebook post today, Russo wrote: “This storm has the potential and is forecasted to cause incredible damage to the shoreline on NE facing areas. Please heed this warning. This situation we will encounter has the characteristics of the ’91 storm and even resembles activity that was observed in the Blizzard of ’78, only without the snow.
“We are expecting MAJOR FLOODING throughout the town that will create life threatening conditions from midday Friday and well into Saturday, when the third high tide hits us.
“If you live on the immediate coast, either beach or bay side, and can relocate to higher ground, stay with friends, or family away from this threat, please do so today.
“The towns of Scituate and Duxbury are requesting the same of the residents, and have deemed this a “voluntary” evacuation.
“If you are planning to shelter in place, please make sure you have the proper supplies for 36-72 hrs.”
Russo said that storm conditions may turn out to be less impactful than expected, but that he is “always going to err on the side of safety.”
The town offers a Code Red emergency notification system. To sign up for alerts on your landline or cellphone, text messages, email, and social media, visit the town’s webpage at town.hull.ma.us and click on Code Red, or call 781 925-1330.