Hurricane Gloria swept past the Vineyard Friday, veering west and north and carrying less force than predicted, but nonetheless left splintered trees and toppled power lines in her wake.
The storm, billed as potentially one of the most dangerous in history, caused no serious injuries on the Vineyard and only minimal property damage, Island officials reported.
By Saturday evening most of the felled tree branches were cleared or pushed to the side of roads and electricity was restored to Island homes.
Winds whipped across Vineyard shores Friday afternoon at sustained speeds of 52 miles per hour and gusts up to 81 miles per hour, according to the Menemsha Coast Guard. That was well below the 150 miles per hour of twirling hurricane gales predicted the day before. A mere half-inch of rain hit the Island, meteorologists reported.
Nevertheless, hundreds of people evacuated low-lying coastal homes, schools closed for the day, and 309 people sought refuge in the five emergency centers throughout the Vineyard.
Nearly every home on the Island suffered power losses at one time during the storm, according to David Dunham, district supervisor for Commonwealth Electric. And another set of storm-related problems with a transmission line snuffed out electricity again throughout the entire Cape and Islands for 45 minutes shortly after seven Saturday morning, company spokesman Dick White said.
County commissioners and elected officials from all Island towns upgraded a precautionary state of emergency de­clared Thursday night to a full scale state of emergency shortly before nine Friday morning. Their decree came minutes after Gov. Michael S. Dukakis proclaimed the entire commonwealth an emergency area.
At 6 a.m. Friday, police in all Island towns began moving into low-lying coastal areas, knocking on doors and calling over public address systems for occupants to vacate their premises. Areas targeted for evacuation included Katama and Mat­takesett in Edgartown; Harthaven and parts of the Camp Ground in Oak Bluffs; Lagoon Pond Road, Tashmoo East, Beach Road and parts of Main street in Tisbury; and homes along the shore in West Tisbury, Chilmark and Gay Head.
At the same time Friday morning the emergency centers manned with Red Cross volunteers opened at the Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury schools, and the Gay Head town hall.
At 9 a.m. officials issued a driving ban for Island roads, effective at noon, and requested businesses close by mid-day.
The Steamship Authority ceased Its ferry runs by 11:30 a.m., spokesman Ray Martin said. The Naushon and Islander ran on schedule until then, before tying up in Vineyard Haven to wait out the storm. Saturday morning the boats began operating on schedule once again.
But the Island escaped the worst of Gloria. She touched land at Cape Hatteras, N.C., shortly after midnight Friday morning, shifted her course farther west than originally predicted and churned across Long Island, Connecti­cut, Rhode Island, central and western Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Even the Cape emerged from the storm more battered than the Vineyard. Falmouth recorded gusts of up to 96 miles per hour. Chatham clocked sustained winds of 67 miles per hour and gusts reaching 109 miles per hour. Some 2,000 homes throughout the Cape were still without power yesterday morning, Commonwealth Electric spokesman Dick White said.
Still, water reached four feet deep at the end of the South Beach parking lot Friday afternoon, state police trooper Dan Flynn said. “If it wasn’t for the Herring Creek, it would have gone right up The Plains.”
The Aquinnah Shop in Gay Head lost half its roof in swirling southwest winds. The rolled asphalt covering flew off the building’s seaward side and landed in a twisted heap next to the Gay Head cliff monument some 40 yards away.
“We drove up around 3:30 Friday afternoon and saw it,” owner Anne Vanderhoop said. Saturday morning workers pounded non-stop under bril­liant azure skies, hurrying to swath the building again before the next rain.
Elsewhere up-Island, the battering surf cut an opening between the south shore and Tisbury Great Pond. Relentless waves broke onto the dunes by upper Chilmark Pond, flattening snow fencing and sand dunes built up over the past three years.
Several boats, including the old On Time Chappaquiddick ferry, sank in the Edgartown harbor, and a 26-foot fiber­glass sailboat named Free severed its mooring and ran aground in Chappa­quiddick’s inner harbor.
Chappaquiddiek residents reported 15-foot high surf off Wasque and white caps on Caleb’s Pond.
“It destroyed everything that has been built up to save the beach from erosion and to keep fresh water in the pond,” said Howard Young, a nearby resident. Trees appeared to be the principal casualties of the hurricane’s force, according to police in all Island towns.
Thirty-two trees fell or lost branches in the Camp Ground in Oak Bluffs, the vice president of the Camp Meeting Association Gordon MacGillyray said. A large oak, three feet in diameter, toppled onto the cottage of Bill and Loretta Grunden, leaving a gash in an overhanging roof. A few other trees knicked rooftops, but caused no serious damage, Mr. Mac­Gillvray said.
Some 20 trees and branches tumbled in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Tisbury, bringing wires down, Tisbury police Sgt. Justin Welch said.
But, he said: “Very few trees were uprooted. Yesterday some friends and I took a trip up to the Worcester area and we saw many trees there uprooted. But here most of the limbs were just broken off, or big dead trees just fell over.”
Chilmark police reported numerous fallen trees and lines and a number of burglar alarms set off by wires shorting in high winds.
Edgartown police also noted many fallen wires and trees. “The South Beach area took a beating. But there were no ambulance runs during the storm,” police chief George Searle said.
All day Thursday Islanders prepared for the onslaught of Gloria by removing boats from the water, boarding windows or criss-crossing panes with masking tape, and removing items for storage on higher ground.
Tisbury police went door-to-door asking merchants to tape their windows to prevent shattered glass. Carroll’s Moving & Trucking hauled computers out of Martha’s Vineyard National Bank offices, liquor out of Our Market in Oak Bluffs and groceries out of the A&P in Vineyard Haven.
Black Dog Bakery workers in Vineyard Haven moved flour, poppy seeds and other ingredients upstairs, above rising water levels. Martha’s Vineyard Natural Foods management in Vineyard Haven moved wares upstairs. Barbara Giles Welch packaged up every single trinket and piece of jewelry from her souvenir shop on the Gay Head Cliffs, took them home and boarded every window and door of the store.
Sonja Norton moved the 100-pound pumpkin next to her Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road vegetable stand inside her house to protect it from the height of the storm. Officials met in town halls and fire stations across the Island to plan. After a Thursday night of placid calm, Friday dawned blustery and with eerie yellow glow. People scurried to secure shutters, tape windows and buy food, candles and batteries.
Branches tossed and swirled in rising winds as the morning wore on. By noon most Islanders took to their houses. Some, however, stayed outside to watch. Two youths bodysurfed in the waves off East Chop late Friday morning.
Scores of thrill-seekers flocked to South Beach to view the waves, Susan Whiting, Vern Laux, Whit Manter and Flip Harrington went birding and spotted sandwich and caspian terns blown in by the storm in the middle of Seven Gates field.
Civil defense director James D. Mitchell kept continuous contact with state and Island officials from his office at the Martha’s Vineyard airport. Island police, emergency medical technicians, highway workers and firemen patrolled the streets, pushing away fallen brush and calling to wanderers to get indoors.
By mid-morning the first of the power outages hit, Mr. Dunham of Common­wealth Electric said. The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital operated on emer­gency power most of the afternoon, spokesman Matthew Stackpole said. Power company workers restored fallen lines, but some homes were still in darkness at nightfall Friday.
By dusk the worst of the hurricane was past, and a group of teenagers skipped through puddles on the Vineyard Haven streets.
Saturday the sun burned bright and hot and people raked lawns and tore tape from windows.
“The hurricane was nothing. I’ve encountered worse weather at bus stops in England,” one man was heard to say from the steps of Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury.
And the birders took to the fields again. “There are oodles and oodles of rare birds out there,” said Robert Culbert of Oak Bluffs.
The same group that spotted the sandwich and caspian terns, along with birders Dooley Rosenwald and Bruce Sortie, saw a brown pelican at Katama Saturday afternoon. It was the third such sighting of the species on the Vineyard. Other rare southern terns — like the royal and black skimmer terns — were blown into Vineyard skies by the storm. “The birders have been out non-stop since the storm,” Mr. Culbert said.
And insurance offices had a surpris­ingly relaxing day Saturday. “We thought if we had gotten the brunt of it here, we would likely have gotten 2,000 claims,” said Bill Rohr of Martha’s Vineyard Insurance. “But in this case we were fortunate to get less than 100 claims — all of them minor, like trees down on homes and some roof damage.”