Tenacious Murk From the July 3, 1973 Gazette article “Tenacious Murk Disrupts Ferry and Air Travel for Days; Then Lightning Lets Go; Sea Searches Busy” by William A. Caldwell:
Even more than usual, people on Martha’s Vineyard talked about the weather last weekend. There was more of it than usual to talk about.
Ferryboats were delayed, airplane flights were subject to cancellation without notice that lowered to zero (ceiling) zero (visibility) without notice. The Coast Guard had a mini-flotilla out groping through fog and pelting rain for boats missing as much as 12 hours. People who had swarmed to the Island for the first of the big summer weekends, the one before the Fourth of July, stood watching the rain stream down their windows hour after hour. Saturday night produced a walloping, picture-rattling fireworks display — a thunderstorm that crashed and rumbled on hour after hour.
There was plenty to talk about — weather so resolutely bad it was an unforgettable spectacular.
At the 4:30 o’clock height of the storm Sunday morning a bolt of lightning struck a power pole supporting high wires outside the Oyster Pond home of Winthrop B. Norton, blew the top off the pole, and sent into the house a surge of electricity that knocked out the controls in the furnace.
“Then it sizzled on into the bedroom — sounded like frying eggs — and knocked out all the lights in the house,” Mr. Norton said. Simultaneously the charge blew out an Oyster Pond cottage he rents to Robert J. Carroll, he added. Just as Mr. Norton, waking, set his feet to the floor, a second thunderbolt struck near the house. “Scared the hell out of me,” he said, and it occurred to him he was glad he had reared two lightning rods on the house a few years ago.
In addition to them, he has installed small spearlike copper points along the ridge of the house and grounded them by wire in the earth alongside. During a storm like that, he said, electric-blue lights play along them, and afterward they are polished bright.
Trueman A. Place, manager of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport, said the instrument landing system commissioned in May had kept airplane traffic close to its fair-weather norms. “But when we get weather like that, with the fog flat on the surface of the runways, no pilot brings a plane in,” he said. Morning and evening flights were especially vulnerable to the weather.
Delta Airlines ordered four flights to bypass scheduled landings at Martha’s Vineyard; passengers were landed at Hyannis, put up overnight, and brought in the following day. “Maybe three or four” landings were diverted to Nantucket by Executive Airlines. It schedules nine movements a day. The Island’s own year-round plane service, Air New England, had to cancel 20 of the 100 flights scheduled between Friday and Monday.
What happened to many a best-laid plan befell Mrs. Richard K. Morse’s trip to Nantucket. The morning ferryboat on which she meant to go was washed out. She took a plane. Next day the fog closed in, and she could not get back until it lifted, day after that.
Twice since Thursday schedule interruptions attributable to the fog have afflicted the venerable Authority steamer Nobska and her passengers.
At about 2 a.m. Thursday the Nobska slipped quietly into Vineyard Haven with a load of passengers bound for Woods Hole from Nantucket. The departure from the steamer’s normal route was caused by thick fog which did not lift until after sunrise when the Nobska got under way to resume her trip to the mainland.
Sunday night, with a load of passengers from Nantucket again bound for Woods Hole, the steamer crept up to the Oak Bluffs wharf at about 9:30 p.m. to lie safe until the damp, grey cloud of fog showed signs of breaking up. This unscheduled delay lasted until approximately 2 a.m. when the Nobska took up her course again for Woods Hole.
Yesterday a New York reporter assigned to cover the Vineyard’s Fourth of July started for the Island from LaGuardia Airport at 7:30 a.m. She arrived in the Gazette office at 4:30 p.m. after being landed at Hyannis and racing to Woods Hole to catch a boat running one and a half hours late.
Beginning Thursday evening, and continuing until an early hour on Monday, a cutter and three smaller craft, manned by Coast Guard crews, searched the fog-shrouded waters of this area for boats that were overdue for two 12-hour stretches. At the same time a shore patrol patrolled Island beaches. They left Falmouth Thursday morning bound for Edgartown from where they were supposed to telephone home on arrival. When they did not telephone, Vineyard and Woods Hole crews were alerted and remained on the job, those men in the smaller Coast Guard craft having nothing to eat and experiencing various other inconveniences.
Compiled by Alison Mead