Alison Shaw
The earliest hurricane in New England history roared up the East Coast Mon­day, plowing across Martha’s Vineyard with harbors full and seasonal popula­tion at its peak. Hurricane Bob lashed the Island with winds officially clocked at 98 miles per hour and reported in places as high as 110.
At 11 a.m. Monday the storm was building and there were squalls. Seasoned Islanders were convinced this was weather by noon as reports of 85 to 90-mile­per-hour winds began to spread. By 3 p.m. the sun was shining on millions of dollars in property damage and major changes to the face of the Island. There were no serious injuries reported as darkness fell on the powerless Island Monday night, but it was already clear in the hardest hit harbors of Edgartown and Vineyard Haven that damage was extensive. Hundreds of boats — many of them large sailboats — were tossed ashore, capsized or sunk. The sailboat Espere was flung from its spot in the Vineyard Haven inner harbor over the breakwater. Miss Asia, an elegant 62-foot wooden yacht well-known in Edgartown, was wracked up on a concrete bulkhead, nearly making it into the pool at the Harborside Inn. At South Beach, the old John Donnelly house was spun around on its foundation, its chimney left standing like some odd appendage.
In a tragic accident the following day during cleanup, a New York city woman was struck and killed while riding her bicycle in Edgartown. Pricilla Glickman, 21, was struck by an Edgartown highway dump truck at the intersection of Pease’s Point Way and South Water street at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday. The truck was driven by Martin Morris, 58, of Edgartown. Miss Glickman was pronounced dead on the scene. Edgartown and state police are investigating.
At 2:30 p.m. Monday, barometric pressure hit a low of 29 inches here just as the eye of the hurricane made landfall at Newport, RI. The worst of the fast-moving storm, clocked with a forward motion of 35 milts per hour, lasted two and a half hours and the storm dropped only .15 inches of rain. But Bob left a permanent mark on the land, toppling great trees that have stood for a generation and blasting away 30 to 40-foot barrier beach dunes along the South Shore from Squibnocket to Chappaquiddick.
Mighty gusts whipped up in the late morning as 1,500 people completed evacuation of low lying coastal areas, parading with blankets, coolers and children to emergency shelters set up in every town.
Sheets of spume — white froth ripped front the face of the water — raced across the land, coating windows from Chappaquiddick to Gay Head with a gray, briny film. At 2 p.m. the storm surge broke over the dunes at the right and left forks of South Beach in Edgartown, sending a wall of water nearly 200 yards inland. The bridge at the Mattakesett Herring Creek on the left fork was undermined by a cascade of sea water which poured over the asphalt onto the marshlands.
All along the South Shore waves as high as 20 feet washed over the barrier beach into the great ponds and Katama Bay. There were no reports of permanent breaches Tuesday morning, but for a brief period at the height of Bob, both Chappaquiddick and Gay Head were separated from the rest of the Island. The only road to Gay Head, State Road at Quitsa Pond, was awash.
Damage assessments began as the sun broke at 3 p.m. and the sound of chain saws could be heard in every town. Electricity had been cut off at the main underwater cables, removing the threat of live downed power lines at least temporarily. A driving ban was in effect from noon until 6:45 but cleanup was well under way even before the winds subsided.
Hardest hit was the Edgartown harbor.
Estimates Tuesday morning put 84 boats on the beach, 13 to 15 boats capsized or sunk and an unknown number missing, according to harbor master Robert Gilkes.
“It’s a mess. We won’t have a final count until we get a reading on the number of boats pulled, and we don’t know how many people left the harbor,” Mr. Gilkes said.
Oil and fuel spills associated with the sunken vessels spread across the harbor as light dawned Tuesday morning. Environmental police officer Wiliam Searle worked with Mr. Gilkes Tuesday to contain the slicks.
“In terms of the environmental, you can call the harbor a total loss,” Mr. Gilkes said.
Vineyard Haven harbor fared better than many experienced weather observers expected, with 30 boats thrown up on shore and two on the bottom at harbor master Donald King’s first count.
The sea broke over the bulkhead along the Vineyard Haven shore. According to Capt. Robert Douglas, owner of the topsail schooner Shenandoah, there were whitecaps in the parking lot behind the Black Dog Restaurant. Six boats were on the beach near Owen Park; several were left as much as 60 feet high and dry when the seas subsided.
The 30-foot sloop Colibri, owned by Andrew Warlock, was racked up on the jetty, bow under water. According to Mr. King 100 boats took refuge in Lagoon Pond before the storm.
Oak Bluffs, Menemsha and Gay Head’s West Basin were spared the chaos. Gay Head harbor master William Vanderhoop and his son Buddy spent most of the storm at the town landing, tracking problems as they developed. According to David Waldrip, executive petty officer at the Menemsha Coast Guard station, the entire Menemsha fleet was secured and accounted for by 9:30 Monday morning. Two of the larger boats, the Unicorn and the Quitsa Strider II, had taken safe harbor behind the New Bedford hurricane barrier. Several Woods Hole rescue boats were sent to New Bedford to ride out the storm, but three cutters took the blow at the Vineyard Haven outer harbor. There were no reports of boaters in trouble in open waters surrounding the Vineyard.
The Oak Bluffs harbor was spared as well, town marina manager Preston Averill Jr. reported Tuesday morning. “Standing at the shack, I can see two power boats on shore and one rolled over,” Mr. Averill said. “We really came through well. Other than that, the Island Queen is coming in on schedule,” he said.
But buildings along the Oak Bluffs waterfront suffered damage. The Dreamland Garage, which houses a moped dealership and a video arcade, was on fire at 2:20 p.m. during the height of the storm. A short time later part of the roof blew off.
Three cottages in the historic Camp Ground were damaged by falling limbs, and most of the towering trees that attracted the original Camp Meeting settlement more than 150 years ago sustained significant damage.
Island trees suffered the harshest assault. North Road and Middle Road in Chilmark were impassible until Tuesday morning, blocked by huge toppled trees.
“It looked like a B-52 landed in my yard,” said Karen Colaneri, a North Tisbury resident, yesterday. On Tuesday after the storm the Gay Head fire department worked through the day to keep roads open, as did emergency workers in West Tisbury and Chilmark. The sweet smell of crushed leaves was everywhere. Ed Abbe, a Harthaven resident who remembers the hurricane of 1938, said the tree damage was worse.
M.C. Wallo
On North Water street, a four-story elm was ripped out by the roots — it fell across the roof of the Norman Dudley Johnson Greek Revival home. The building, like most of the houses on this Island, miraculously suffered minimal damage.
At the Martha’s Vineyard airport a private plane flipped over during the height of the storm, the only mishap at the airport according to airport manager W. Philip Reynolds. Mr. Reynolds reported that there were some 25 planes at the airport, and that he and others used about 600 feet of yellow tie-down line to secure the planes before the storm. The Katama Air Park saw no damage.
Telephone poles snapped like matchsticks or were torn out of the ground whole along South Road in Chilmark, on South Water and School streets in Edgartown and in West Tisbury.
Four Commonwealth Electric crews were on the Island through the storm, mainly trying to control power line hazards and clear trees from lines until the main switch was shut down just after 2 p.m. At the height of the storm some 15,000 Vineyard customers were without power. The main power line was opened and power restored to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital just after midnight on Tuesday. An additional five Commonwealth Electric crews came to the Island on the first boat Tuesday. Many areas of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs and scattered areas of Tisbury were still in the dark as the sun set yesterday. Electric company spokesman David Dunham estimated that portions of West Tisbury, Chilmark and Gay Head could be without power through the week. In the absence of electricity, up-Island authorities directed residents to obtain fresh water from the West Tisbury fire station and Cook’s Spring in Gay Head.
Tuesday dawned flat calm with light rain and people took up the chores of cleanup. By afternoon the Island was still inconvenienced, hut a sense of normality had returned. Grocery stores reopened and long lines formed at the gas pumps and outside restaurants and delicatessens. The Vineyard Playhouse announced the performance of Lend Me a Tenor would go on. The tattered hurricane warning flags hung limp at the Edgartown Yacht Club and all across the Island people traded stories and dug out.