Predictions of this week's three-day northeaster were a bit of a reach. Hours before the storm arrived, Marshall Carroll, owner of Menemsha Texaco, said he thought he was going to lose his store. "The forecast was dire," he said, referring to the predictions for hurricane winds and a six-foot-high storm surge. Before the storm, Mr. Carroll said, "I looked at my building and thought of all the good times, and then thought maybe I will get another one. With a new store, I would get a better door." During and after the storm it was business as usual at the up-Island's outermost store.
While the worst of the Atlantic storm was felt elsewhere, the highest wind measured at Martha's Vineyard Shipyard was 57 m.p.h. from the northeast. Three days of sporadic precipitation came to a total of only 1.35 inches of water, as measured by the National Weather Service cooperative station in Edgartown. The lowest recorded barometric pressure, 28.96 inches of mercury, was recorded at the FAA tower at Martha's Vineyard Airport at 2:42 a.m. on Tuesday. All of the snow, one inch of it, fell as the storm left on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
Only a few ferry trips between Vineyard Haven and Woods Hole were canceled. The Chappaquiddick ferry ran daily with only a few trips at the end of the day canceled. The worst of the tides was felt Wednesday morning, when Five Corners was flooded and Lagoon Pond Road was closed to traffic because of the combination of storm-related and astronomical high tides.
The storm began Monday and the last of it didn't leave until Wednesday. On most days, high winds ran steadily between 30 and 40 knots from the northeast, with some higher gusts. The Joseph A. Sylvia State Beach took a pounding. Rob Culbert, county beach manager, said as much as 30 feet of sand was taken from the Edgartown side of each of the groins.
Norton Point Beach was hammered by high tides on the Katama Bay side and eight-foot waves on the ocean side. To Mr. Culbert it is magic that the beach remained intact after three days of rough weather.
The biggest winners were the Island consumers, who stocked up for this storm and storms of the future. Debbie Raymond of Up-Island Cronig's said the storm shoppers began arriving Saturday and didn't finish until Sunday afternoon.
"We saw more shoppers for Hurricane Bob," said Sam Koohy, general manager for Cronig's. "People were more concerned that with a snowstorm they wouldn't get out," Mr. Koohy said, so they stocked up on food and not batteries.
On Monday night, the interest shifted to videos. Ann Evasick, manager of Island Entertainment, said they rented 1,000 videos, everything from Bambi to Zulu. "This was one of the busiest days of the winter. We are an essential service. If we sold milk and bread, we would be the only game in town," she said.
Island students got Tuesday off from school, even though the brief blizzard that was forecast didn't materialize until a day later.
Off-Island newspaper subscribers didn't miss a day. Jim Tietje of the Falmouth-based Patriot Party Boats brought the 45-foot boat Quickwater into Oak Bluffs on both mornings. "I was expecting a lot worse. I canceled a couple of trips that day that I probably could have done," he said. "This storm was kind of a dud compared to what they predicted."
Seas were five and eight feet high in Nantucket Sound. "We ran our boat service during the Perfect Storm," he said.
But the weather was severe for members of the U.S. Coast Guard. On Monday afternoon a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter from Air Station Cape Cod came to the Vineyard to pickup a 57-year-old male suffering from a heart attack. The Coast Guard is only requested when the weather conditions are adverse and there is no other option.
Chris Kluckhuhn, copilot of the Jayhawk helicopter, said: "We weren't going to fly that day. Our flight surgeon said, if we didn't fly this guy, he would die."
The patient was Daniel Whiting of West Tisbury and the plan to transport Mr. Whiting from Martha's Vineyard Hospital all the way to Mass General Hospital in Boston had to be changed.
Kurt Kupersmith, the aircraft commander, pilot of the $20 million Jayhawk helicopter, said the wind was not the worst part of the trip. Icing began forming on the outside of the helicopter when they got airborne. "We could see the ice forming. We picked up half an inch of ice on the air frame; that is a pretty good icing. The winds were 50 knots. It was a bit bouncy."
"The Martha's Vineyard Airport equipment was down so we had to make a non-precision approach. We barely got into the airport. The wind wasn't so bad, but the icing will bring you out of the sky," said the co-pilot.
The trip to the mainland was shortened, because of the apparent threat of ice. The helicopter landed at Air Station Cape Cod and the patient was transported to Boston via ambulance.
Ferry service to the Vineyard was only briefly shut down on Monday and Tuesday evenings. Jim Swindler, director of operations at the Steamship Authority, said at the worst tides ran about two to three feet above normal. Ferry service was suspended between 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday because of the high winds and seas.
On Wednesday morning, the ferry Martha's Vineyard had a difficult time leaving the Woods Hole dock. "She got up under the transfer bridge. But with crafty maneuvering, they got the boat down and into service," Mr. Swindler said.
On Wednesday morning, crew members aboard the ferry Islander had a concern other than the weather. Ken and Michelle Dube of West Tisbury were enroute to Woods Hole, where Mrs. Dube was going to Falmouth Hospital to have a baby. But she went into labor as they boarded the ferry in Vineyard Haven.
Mr. Dube said: "Once we got on the boat, things started moving fast." On board and underway, Mr. Dube got the attention of Steamship Authority crew and, fortunately, there were EMTs and a doctor on board. All the attention was drawn to Mrs. Dube in the family's Jeep Cherokee.
An ambulance met the ferry at Woods Hole and the two were quickly taken to the hospital. They named their son Ryan. Mr. Dube said afterwards: "People were so amazing, Everyone made sure we were all right." Mr. Dube, a builder, said he thought there were as many as 15 EMTs on that boat. His wife is an audiologist.
Roy Hayes, owner of the Chappaquiddick ferry service, said that the ferry ran much more than they had originally thought. "We basically ran all day long, but shut down at 7 p.m.," Mr. Hayes said. "We thought we were going to stop running at 2 p.m., but the winds moderated. It didn't seem to hit."
At Martha's Vineyard Airport, the runways were only closed from 6 to 8 a.m. on Wednesday while crews plowed snow.
Public safety preparations for the storm began Monday morning with meetings in many of the Island towns. Emergency management personnel, police and fire departments in Tisbury and Edgartown met at their police stations. Police chief Joe Carter said he held his meetings over the phone. The town of Tisbury declared a state of emergency in anticipation of the severe storm.
Though the forecasted severe storm didn't materialize here on the Vineyard, it happened farther north.
William L. Searle, Dukes County Emergency Management deputy director, said: "I spoke with a meteorologist who said that the only place that wasn't severely hit by the storm from North Carolina to the Canadian Provinces was Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket." Mr. Searle said the reason was that the low came up the coast 60 miles further out to sea than expected. This put us on the weaker side of the storm. I think the weather service did an unbelievably good job at predicting this storm."
Phil Hale of Martha's Vineyard Shipyard said he thought the national news services should spend more time learning about weather forecasting. "There are so many variables in a storm. This information should be seen as a guide." The weather service provides wonderful satellite and radar maps. Still, sometimes I feel they don't know how to interpret their own information. It was clear to anyone who watched the storm that it was not going to be as advertised," Mr. Hale said.
Mr. Hayes said he thought the weather forecasting was as good as anyone could expect.
Menemsha fisherman Gregory Mayhew and his brother, Jonathan, brought their fishing boats in early to avoid problems from the storm. Mr. Mayhew said: "To a fisherman you have to go on the cautious side. You wouldn't want to be caught out there."
Mr. Swindler said: "That is a tough call. You can't be too critical of those folks. They do the best they can."