Swampscott resident receives storm assistance

SWAMPSCOTT — One Puritan Road resident is grateful for the large amount of help she received after a wave came slamming into her home on Saturday afternoon during a massive Nor’easter.

“We had a tremendously dramatic weekend on Puritan Road in Swampscott,” said Abbe Smith. “My garage door buckled from a huge wave at the height of Saturday’s high tide, even though there was a board across it. My son was in the garage as it happened, and we were bailing out as fast as we could, just trying to get past the height of the tide.”

Smith, who lives right on Eisman’s Beach, said the impact from the wave felt like a truck hitting the house. She said the board her family puts across the garage for storms, which they tucked with sandbags and towels, is usually enough, as they only need to get through an hour or less during high tide.

But the waves started going over the wall two hours before high tide on Saturday. Water started to seep through because it was so much higher than usual.

Just one minute past high tide, Smith said, they had started bailing out the garage because her family thought it was getting into the living area. They thought if they could just scoop the water out, the tide would start to recede. But then, the huge wave hit.

Smith, who also works as the manager of the classified department for Essex Media Group, said this caused her, her husband and son to go into total emergency mode and hold the door, which goes into the house, with towels, and wait for the tide to recede. She said they held the door for 20 minutes, adding that she didn’t know what else to do.

“It was by far the biggest tide we’ve ever had since I’ve lived here,” said Smith, who has lived in the duplex for seven years.

But the real story, Smith said, was how much help her family got following the damage. She said a man came from Salem Overhead Door and bent their garage door back into place to get it to shut, working with a lantern inside the garage — their power had been knocked out since 4 a.m. Saturday.

The neighbor who shares their duplex sent over his handyman, who went to Home Depot and got four of the last wooden planks they had to protect their damaged garage door. Smith said the man drilled them into her house because they didn’t know how the midnight tide was going to be.

The following day, Smith said there were National Grid trucks up and down the street, as they had called several times. By Sunday, she said only four houses on their street, including theirs, were without power.

By 3 p.m. Sunday, there were eight utility trucks in front of her house and by 8 p.m., there were 11, digging up the street in the dark. The problem, Smith said, was that an old wooden piece that’s supposed to hold the electrical wire had become saturated by seawater and had splintered, which is why their power was out. She said crews had to replace it with a more contemporary product.

“It was spooky,” Smith said. “I mean, these guys are going down in manholes when it’s freezing. The snow had started and at 1:40 in the morning (on Monday), I looked up and my electricity had come back on.”

Smith said the response was stunning, adding that some of the utility and environmental trucks had designations from other states. She said it was an awesome display of coordination and commitment on their little street. The neighbors were also great.

“I was very impressed,” Smith said. “It made me think about the people in Puerto Rico. We had one weekend storm and we had all these people come and help us and we’ll get back on our feet this week. And I couldn’t help but think of all the people who go through hurricanes and had nothing like this. It was stunning. It was awesome.”

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