Mark Lovewell

Martha’s Vineyard officials estimate Hurricane Bob cut a $5.5 million path of destruction when it tore through the Vineyard Monday afternoon. Civil defense directors rushed preliminary figures to Boston Wednesday in time for acting Gov. Paul Cellucci’s request that the President declare the state a national disaster area.

Town leaders received notice from the state Wednesday that they had just 24 hours to compile the first damage report, which set the preliminary cost of cleanup and repair of public facilities at $2.5 million.

The package sent to Boston yesterday was only a first step in the long process of accounting for the millions in repairs, cleanup costs and insurance claims in the wake of Bob’s three-hour visit on Monday.

In addition the storm did more than $3 million in damage to boats in Edgartown, $30,000 to boats in Vineyard Haven and $100,000 in damage to farms in West Tisbury, civil defense coordinators estimate. County civil defense coordinator James D. Mitchell said he is also concerned about the hurricane’s lasting effect on businesses, employment and the fishing and tourism industry here.

The acting governor sent a letter to the White House today asking for national disaster designation. The state of emergency in effect in Massachusetts since 9:45 a.m. Monday will be lifted after Mr. Cellucci completes a helicopter tour of the Cape and Islands this morning.

He announced the disaster relief request at a press conference yesterday.

“The damage to communities and public facilities, to small business, individuals and agricultural industry throughout the state is enough to qualify us to make that request. We expect that some time tomorrow we will be in a position to make that request to the President,” the acting governor said.

If the White House and federal officials make the designation, the federal relief funds will begin flowing to the region and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will open relief offices to advise the community on funds available through other agencies such as the Small Business Administration, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Army Corps of Engineers and disaster aid grants. The governor’s office said damage state-wide will exceed $1 billion; spokesmen said destruction is centered in southeastern Massachusetts and on the Cape and Islands.

Mr. Cellucci also underscored that the problems of repair and cleanup will not prevent merchants and innkeepers from doing business.

“We believe that Cape Cod, which has a significant tourist industry, will be open for business this weekend and certainly will be open for Labor Day weekend,” he said.

Fred B. Morgan Jr., Edgartown selectmen and town civil defense director, said the first damage estimates are very rough.

“We are pulling these figures out of the air, but we have to compile figures by five o’clock today for the total Island report,” he said.

Mr. Morgan is concerned that the final costs of the storm will be far greater.

“This goes beyond personnel and equipment,” he said. “I take into account damage to private homes, business, shade tree reparations, loss of fishing boats with the employment they bring, private motor vehicle and boat damage.”

He consulted with members of the Edgartown board of trade, harbor master Robert Gilkes and other town officials. Many business owners fear visitors will cancel trips just as the Island enters critical last months of the tourist season, compounding losses.

Terrance P. McCarthy, owner of the Dockside Marketplace in Oak Bluffs, said the cost of cleanup exaggerates the situation.

“People see all this bad news and they think we are out of business. I was selling fuel at the dock on Tuesday and if you come to my place today you wouldn’t know we had a hurricane,” he said.

Mr. Morgan said 180 people were evacuated from the Harbor View hotel, and 120 from the Kelley House in the hours before Bob arrived. Of those 3000 people only 80 returned to rooms in the Harbor View, enjoying reduced rates and free meals.

“We could lose $2 to $3 million in business alone from now to the end of the summer. And boats, God, we figure a minimum of $3 million loss in boats sunk, missing and damaged,” Mr. Morgan said.

Mr. Mitchell faxed the county-wide report on the cost of cleanup and repair of public facilities to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency yesterday. The estimates are as follows”

Gay Head - $23,050;

Chilmark - $213,500;

West Tisbury - $227,000;

Tisbury - $259,000;

Oak Bluffs - $1.1 million;

Edgartown - $717,000.


The report will be updated as the towns continue to dig out and a more comprehensive assessment is already underway, Mr. Mitchell said.

The repair and emergency work following the storm will also cost the towns dearly in overtime pay, Oak Bluffs civil defense director Valorie Colebrook said.

“In Oak Bluffs we don’t have the budget to cover the regular time. It is a great financial liability. Hopefully the feds and MEMA (Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency) will make it right, but what if they don’t?” she said. The Island emergency command center was based in Oak Bluffs at the state police barracks.

Renovation work at the Oak Bluffs school was wiped out; the concrete bulkhead shows hairline fractures and the catwalk on the steamship wharf was swept away.

“Figure overtime, contract labor, excess fuel, first-day food, equipment purchased – chains, power cords, heavy duty chains. Make a guess at what it is going to take to get out of this. All this does is start the ball rolling. All we need to do is stay in the system,” Mr. Mitchell said as officials compiled figures at the 1 p.m. meeting yesterday.

John S. Alley of West Tisbury said power outages forced fairy farmer Fred Fisher to dispose of 1,000 gallons of mile. As long as his refrigeration and pasteurization equipment is out of service he has to milk his cows and dump it.

“Jim Athearn’s corn crop was wiped out; John Olsen lost a cow; there’s all the people unemployed during this – it goes on,” Mr. Alley said.

“They’ve got every kind of backhoe and bulldozer there is up there,” said Chilmark civil defense director Danny Bryant.

“There is a whole lot in there we haven’t even figured yet. The Home Port lost $15,000 in food in the refrigerator. They were giving away chowder. And what about loss of business? Who knows when they will have power.”

He said reports from fishermen will come in slowly.

“And look at Pat Jenkenson. He had 400 pots out, and this one got on us too fast. Once they get their boats back a lot of other guys will find out what they haven’t seen yet,” he said.

Walter Delaney said Gay Head police will be working overtime keeping the lines of cars from Chilmark and Gay Head from blocking State Road traffic at Cook’s Spring as long as the power remains out. Lobsterville Road was damaged and tree removal goes on, he said. Gay Head took the least of Bob’s blast.

Governor Weld, who left the state Tuesday night on a trade mission to the Far East, surveyed damage in southeastern New England by helicopter Tuesday morning. This area was hardest hit when the storm swept through on Monday, his state spokesman said.

“The entire state didn’t suffer the damage you did,” said Jordan St. John, deputy press secretary for the governor. Mr. Weld rushed back from a governors conference in Seattle aboard an Air National Guard plane Monday night after receiving word of the hurricane’s impact. He traveled with Gov. Bruce Sundlun of Rhode Island and Gov. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, who were also returning to assess damage.

“The sever impact to public and private property and the extreme economic impact of the storm hitting at the peak of the tourist season on the Cape and Islands, and the extensive crop damage state-wide which seems to be over 30 per cent, make the chances of federal disaster relief good. But we need the documentation to go ahead,” Mr. St. John said.