BY TOM DALTON
---- — The North Shore got soaked yesterday by the first major storm of the winter, but it could have been a lot worse.
It could have been accumulating snow.
“We were fortunate,” Salem climatologist Arthur Francis said. “If it was (snow), we’d have had over 2 feet.”
As it was, the storm dumped 2 inches of rain along the coast and produced wind gusts that reached 55 mph, according to Francis. Waterfront communities were hit hardest.
While there were no reports of major damage in Marblehead, the town still got slammed.
Waves crashed over the causeway in the late morning right at high tide, forcing police to close the roadway that leads to Marblehead Neck. Waves also crashed against several waterfront buildings, including a downtown landmark, the Barnacle restaurant.
“The Barnacle is still standing,” manager Jenneke Lord said with a laugh. “It usually always does, and that’s a good thing.”
The power of the storm was evident in Salem, where waves crashed on Juniper Point Beach, covering Beach Avenue and the sidewalk across the street with sand. Several roads in that Juniper Point neighborhood were underwater.
The North River Canal spilled over in downtown Salem, flooding Commercial Street, which is lined with businesses.
All Creatures Veterinary Hospital at 20 Commercial St. stayed open through the flooding but was still affected.
“One client had to be towed out” of the parking lot, said Jessica Ortiz, the receptionist. A few employees, she said, couldn’t get to work in the afternoon because the street was impassable.
A low section of Bridge Street in Salem near the commuter rail station had so much water that some motorists turned around rather than try to wade through the deep puddles.
Flooding closed an inbound lane on Highland Avenue during the morning.
Peabody escaped relatively unscathed. Although a short section of Walnut Street was underwater, most of the habitually flooded downtown roads remained open. A firefighter said there had been some reports of water in basements and downed trees.
Beverly’s beaches got pounded, but there was little reported damage.
An official in Danvers said they also were fortunate to be inland and escape any serious problems. The police did field scattered reports of downed tree limbs, and the state sent a crew to fix the traffic lights at routes 62 and 128 after the wind skewed them, an officer said.
Municipal officials around the region hope a potential weekend storm passes by without doing any damage.
“I wouldn’t want to see another rainstorm for a few days with how much rain we got,” said Michael Collins, public services commissioner in Beverly.
Staff writer Neil H. Dempsey contributed to this report.