Peter Simon
Remnants of the year’s worst hurricane passed over the Vineyard last night, delivering both high winds and rain. Hurricane Floyd, a storm that formed in the tropical waters of the Atlantic, began disrupting life on the Island days before it arrived.
With the sun still shining, Steamship Authority ferry service was suspended yesterday after the MV Martha’s Vineyard completed its run to the Vineyard at 11:30 a.m. The Edgartown, Tisbury and West Tisbury schools were opened as shelters late yesterday afternoon, as forecasters maintained that the force of the storm would remain significant hours into the night. They also maintained there might be significant rainfall.
Meteorologists said the storm will move quickly. Clearing skies and lighter winds are expected early today. “I would compare this storm to a strong northeaster that we get in the fall and winter,” said Michael Henry, a meteorologist with Weather Services Inc. in Lexington.
But because of the uncertainty of the storm, Vineyarders took no chances yesterday. The ferries Islander and Martha’s Vineyard made their last trips yesterday morning and spent the storm last night tied up at the Vineyard Haven ferry slips.
The Finest, the high-speed ferry that runs from Hyannis to Nantucket, was tied up in Woods Hole, the Nantucket was tied up in Hyannis and the Eagle was tied up on Nantucket.
SSA general manager Armand Tiberio said the vast majority of the traffic was headed off the two Islands as last-minute travelers fled the approaching storm. But he said the mood was calm. “There didn’t seem to be any panic; the message we were trying to get out was that this was expected to be a quickly passing storm,” Mr. Tiberio said.
Yesterday morning, department heads in the town of Tisbury met for an hour with the local emergency management officials. Police chief John McCarthy said that based on the information available, “We are concerned about some flooding, and we feel there will be a lot of branches down and power outages. We expect a good blow. We will either wind up with a minimum hurricane or a tropical storm,” he said.
In Edgartown there were crews removing gear and valuables from the Dock street shops. Gear was removed from the Edgartown Yacht Club. Trucks pulling trailers loaded with boats passed through the town all day. A downtown parking ban was put into effect yesterday at 6 p.m.
Charlie Blair, harbor master, said there were only eight boats visiting Edgartown Monday night. The storm has accelerated the end of summer, he said, and the storm has all but shut down harbor services.
Menemsha harbor was empty of boats.
Peter Simon
County emergency services manager Earl Littlefield of Vineyard Haven held a meeting with his deputies and others at 3 p.m. yesterday. He told the mostly volunteer force that the National Weather Service staff thought the hurricane would be downgraded to a
tropical storm before it reached the
“We’ve been working all day getting things set up, and sometimes we just have to wait for word from other people. Right now everything is in place, the shelters are set and people are ready,” Mr. Littlefield said. “The police, Red Cross, Steamship Authority, county manager Carol Borer, Commonwealth Electric and others have all been fantastic.”
The Vineyard was spared most of the worst weather up until last night. Severe rains that fell in New York city and across Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts never showed up here. On Wednesday night the Island received almost an inch of rainfall. Mr. Henry said most of that rain was associated with the cold weather front that hooked itself up with the storm and gave the Island mostly cloudy skies on Wednesday and Thursday morning.
On Wednesday night there was a 70th birthday party for Herbert Hancock at the Chilmark Community Center. Hundreds of friends from across the Island attended. While Mr. Hancock was the star of the evening, a lot of public safety officials were talking about the approaching hurricane named Floyd.
On Wednesday afternoon a dozen surfers rode waves at Squibnocket. Jeremy Ray, 29, of Vineyard Haven was one of the surfers. “This is very good surfing. These are the waves we die for all summer. It is as good as it gets,” he said. Approaching waves from the offshore were as high as five feet. Waves were even higher at Philbin Beach in Aquinnah.
On Tuesday, there was hurricane preparation at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. Crews went around the airport removing signage and equipment that might be swept up in the storm. Air National Guard C-130 airplanes made practice landings at the airport for several hours. The planes came in for a landing, taxied for a short time and then took off. Peter Valenti, an airport operations manager, said the planes were practicing in anticipation of their being needed should the storm cut the Vineyard off from the mainland.
At the county emergency services communication center at the airport, volunteers worked days in advance to erect new antennas. Robert Gilkes of Edgartown and Peter Behr of Vineyard Haven assembled transportable radio units to be set up at each of the Red Cross shelters. On Tuesday night they ran a test of the emergency management radio network.
Mr. Behr explained that the new radio station center was created to operate separately from the county communications center, which works with police, fire and emergency medical technicians. The new center will improve communications between the many volunteers who work with the Red Cross and other emergency disaster services.
“It seems the heaviest of weather is on the western flank of the storm,” said Mr. Henry. “If the storm takes a track over the Vineyard, most of the heavy rain will fall on the mainland.”
Hurricane Floyd was a significant storm when it was near the Bahamas earlier in the week, but most of its strength was lost when it passed over the Carolinas. “This is not as interesting as Hurricane Hugo or Andrew,” Mr. Henry said. “They stand out as significant storms. Hurricane Floyd was three times the size of Andrew, but that doesn’t mean it is going to be the biggest. I don’t think this will go down as a classical hurricane. This storm is going to roar through in a couple hours. The good news is that it isn’t staying.”