Valdosta Daily Times

March 9, 2013

Ocean storm topples barrier island home

CNHI News Service

PLUM ISLAND, Mass. — An angry, wind-driven snow storm ripped an unoccupied home from its foundation Friday, toppling it onto the beach and threatening the collapse of a half-dozen other homes on this fragile barrier island off the northeast coast of Massachusetts.

Authorities moved quickly to remove the teetering home to prevent its debris from scarring along the narrow, 11-mile long island. They condemned two neighboring homes and said at least four others were in danger of severe damage from the blustery storm.

“Everyone is taking a beating,” said resident Kathy Connors. “It’s beating the crap out of everyone.”

For decades, Plum Island has been devastated by coastal storms because of its geographic proximity to the mouth of the fast-flowing Merrimack River on the north and the Atlantic Ocean on the east. Damage results from ocean surges that sweep away protective sand dunes.

The latest home toppled at 8:30 a.m. high tide Friday. A refrigerator and other items dumped from the home bobbed in the ocean waves. High winds and snow hampered the removal mission. Up to a foot of snow blanketed the greater Boston region.

A home on the site had been destroyed by the Blizzard of ‘78, and replaced with the home destroyed in Friday’s storm.

The owner of the home was spending the winter in Florida and not available for comment. The home and lot were valued at $700,000.

Two years ago, a Plum Island home about 50 yards north was demolished when the dune underneath it was compromised and its concrete foundation disintegrated.

A replacement home was built on the same lot, though not as close to the dune’s edge.

Despite its vulnerable coastline, Plum Island homeowners continue to rebuild after damaging storms, often under stricter state and local regulations. The Army Corps of Engineers has invested thousands of hours and dollars in building sand dunes to protect homes along the shore.