Storm preparations continued throughout the day Saturday as Vineyarders kept all eyes on the forecasts for Hurricane Sandy, churning northward off the coast of the lower mid-Atlantic on a collision course with another storm system moving in from the west.
If the two storms converge as meteorologists are predicting, the result is expected to be a combined, powerful storm that could spread severe damage from Delaware to Maine. The exact path of the storm was still subject to change, but late Saturday forecasters were expecting Sandy to make landfall off the coast of New Jersey sometime Monday, with severe effects being felt for hundreds of miles around it, including tropical-force winds, flooding and extreme tides. The full moon is early this week. States of emergency were being declared Saturday from coastal Virginia to Massachusetts.
On the Vineyard emergency managers said a meeting is planned for Sunday at 12:30 that will include a conference call with state and federal emergency managers for a situation briefing. Late Saturday emergency managers said their biggest concern was centered on the forecast for hurricane-force winds to batter the Island, possibly for a prolonged period of time, beginning early Monday.
Travel to the Vineyard by air and sea continued without interruption but a travel advisory from the Steamship Authority said ferry cancellations were anticipated from Sunday night to Tuesday depending on the storm. For information or to change a reservation, call 508-477-8600, go to steamshipauthority.com, or visit one of the terminals. Ferry service from New Bedford was halted Saturday night.
Coast Guard station Menemsha said it was sending one boat to New Bedford and taking a smaller 25-foot boat out of the water and to the airport. Senior Chief Jason Olsen said the 47-foot search and rescue vessel will remain in the water until the wind blows over 50 knots and seas run over 20 feet. Coast Guard officers will be on duty at the station throughout.
A spokesman for the power company NStar said extra crews were being sent to the Vineyard.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Association emphasized the large geographic size of the storm. “In Massachusetts, damaging winds, associated power outages, heavy rains, freshwater flooding, as well as coastal flooding and beach erosion on both south and east-facing shores, are expected. Impacts are anticipated to be on par with or more significant than Tropical Storm Irene,” MEMA said in a statement.
Weather conditions on the Vineyard Saturday were mild and Indian-summer-like with little wind.
Islanders went about their daily lives, but in harbors and elsewhere preparations were well under way.
An offshore barge owned by Cape Wind was towed into the Oak Bluffs harbor.
Shirley’s Hardware in Vineyard Haven saw a run on batteries and flashlights and said a special order was being delivered Saturday night. The store will be open on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“We’ve had so many calls for generators,” said Ryan Willoughby who had 10 calls in two days for generators, which he said they don’t sell because they can’t service them.
“At least people are listening and getting prepared,” he said. “If we had wood, people would be buying that too.”
The Red Cross was also preparing.
“The Red Cross is full staffed and prepared to support whatever is asked of us,” American Red Cross spokesman Robert Porter said Saturday.
Mr. Porter encouraged Islanders to go to redcross.org for more information, and to download the Red Cross hurricane app for smartphones, which will have real time information and warnings.
Stocking shelves at Granite Hardware in Edgartown, sales representative Calvin Corwin said people had been buying the basics: lamps, lamp oil, candles and “any emergency type stuff.”
Down the street at Al’s Package Store, Seth Butynski and Kevin Look said that they’re anticipating a pre-storm rush. “Typically, we definitely get busier,” Mr. Butysnki said of hurricanes.
One fitting drink is in demand. “I would expect that those will be gone by the end of the weekend,” Mr. Look said, gesturing to some pre-mixed Dark and Stormy drinks.
Vineyarders began battening down on Friday.
“We’re taking this situation quite seriously, we’re watching it quite closely, we’re hauling boats out of the water as quickly as possible,” said Philip Hale, owner of the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard.
He said the shipyard was preparing for a direct hit, with extra staff working longer hours — hauling four boats per hour out of the water, he said.
The Coast Guard announced Port Condition Whiskey: while ports are open to commercial traffic, preparatory measures are in place. “A dangerous and potentially life threatening storm for mariners is expected early next week,” the Coast Guard said in a press release, with the main effects in southeastern New England waters expected to come Sunday night through Wednesday.
“The boat yard here is hauling boats like crazy,” said Edgartown harbor master Charlie Blair. He said the harbor is in good shape, but they’re keeping an eye on the bay scallop fleet.
Inland was busy too.
“We’re getting swamped with calls,” said Grace Hagerty of Hagerty Tree Service. She said her husband, Bobby, had been out on calls nonstop, with people worried about trees that are in danger of falling, especially trees that have been eaten by oak gall wasps. She said if there are high sustained winds, “we’ll be in trouble.”
“People have been calling the office nonstop,” she said. “It’s been unbelievable.”
In Oak Bluffs, harbor master Todd Alexander said a cruise ship that was scheduled to come to town Saturday cancelled.
The deadly storm tore through the Caribbean mid-week and is being blamed for at least 40 deaths.
The Gazette will continue to post updates on Hurricane Sandy as they become available.