The remnants of Hurricane Noel lashed the Island this past Saturday, bringing down power lines, sinking at least two boats and tossing several others ashore. Although no injuries were linked to the storm, a number of Vineyard homes were without electricity for well into Sunday. Steamship Authority ferry service to the Vineyard shut down at noon Saturday and didn’t resume until Sunday morning.
Even though the storm was a high-powered northeaster when it passed by the Cape and Islands, it still had the characteristics of a growing hurricane with a storm surge. Gusts on the Vineyard reached as high as 80 miles per hour.
The storm did yield one bounty: hundreds of bushels of bay scallops washed ashore on Edgartown beaches, where they were harvested by alert Islanders.
Susan Schofield, supervisor for the Dukes County communications center, said close to 500 emergency calls came in Saturday to the center. The number of calls broke the prior record, set on the Fourth of July in 2005.
On Saturday, three dispatchers handed one call after another, mostly about downed trees and wires. The worst of the storm, between 2 and 5 p.m., brought in the most calls.
A high wind gust of 78 miles per hour was recorded at Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard in Vineyard Haven in the afternoon.
“Fortunately it was a little more north of northeast, we didn’t have quite the rollers we are used to seeing,” said Phil Hale, president of the shipyard.
“Frankly we were lucky and it wasn’t like the Perfect Storm,” Mr. Hale said, referring to a memorable storm that struck on Oct. 31, 1991.
Utility and emergency workers prepared for Saturday’s storm.
Michael Durand, a spokesman for NStar, the electric utility that serves the Island, said the company sent extra line crews to the Island on Friday in anticipation of problems.
Plenty occurred. Power outages were felt sporadically all around the Island wherever big trees came down on power lines.
“We were hopping. The majority of calls were live wires down,” Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling said.
Flames rose into the air from burning trees caught in a web of live wires, even when it was raining and blowing hard.
Fires burned in trees on State Road near John’s Fish Market and off Lambert’s Cove Road and at Hines Point. Lines came down near the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. In Edgartown, a utility pole broke on Fuller street. Lines fell near Main street in Edgartown.
Edgartown Fire Chief Peter Shemeth said two crews of volunteer firemen, along with the ambulance crew, were dressed and ready to answer every call.
The fire station was turned into an active headquarters, with the kitchen serving meals. “Edgartown Pizza donated,” the chief said.
In Vineyard Haven, Chief Schilling said, “We had a couple of people trying to put out those tree fires with a garden hose. They could have easily gotten electricuted.
“There is really nothing we can do when high current is going through the tree and it is burning, but establish a safety zone until the NStar shows up,” the chief said.
As soon as one line was either reconnected or made safe, the crews were off on the road to the next scene.
Mr. Durand couldn’t specify how many Vineyard customers lost power.
“What I can tell you at this point is we had over 50,000 customers without power at the height of the storm, most of those on the Cape and on the South Shore from Plymouth to Marshfield,” he stated. “The Vineyard didn’t suffer as much as the Cape because of differences in the number of type of trees. To the best of my knowledge, we had storm-related outages wrapped up on the Island by Monday.”
The worst of the storm ran from 2 to 4 p.m., when the barometric pressure at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport dropped to a low of 29.24 inches.
Oak Bluffs harbor was a boiling caldron. As high winds sent huge waves into the harbor, each ocean wave hit the bulkhead and then shot back into the harbor. Two boats sank, the largest a 23-foot powerboat, in front of the Wesley Hotel.
“We were lucky,” said Todd Alexander, Oak Bluffs harbor master.
Edgartown harbor saw a half dozen boats run onto the beach from the storm.
One boat, thought loaded safely on a trailer in the parking lot at the Katama landing, was lifted by the winds and launched. Harbor master Charlie Blair said it took a crew of volunteer commercial fishermen to rescue the errant boat.
Live Wire, a 40-foot sportsfisherman, broke from its mooring and was rescued by commercial fishermen before it reached the beach.
“I was blessed by a lot of volunteer help,” the harbor master said. “It is nice to have a community of fishermen, when there are hard times. They are the only people you can depend on.”
Ferry service to the Vineyard’s little island, Chappaquiddick, was suspended at 10 a.m. Saturday and didn’t start again until Sunday.
“The problem was mainly seaweed and debris getting into the ferry props,” said Roy Hayes, who owns the ferry service. “A lot it was windblown into the Chappy ferry slip and we just couldn’t get ahead of it.”
All the same, tides were kind in Edgartown. Even though there was a three-foot storm surge measured on Nantucket, the storm surge on the Vineyard came at low tide.
Further, Mr. Hayes said the Norton Point Beach opening kept a windblown flood tide from building. Norton Point Beach breach didn’t get bigger, though there was some beach erosion reported on Chappaquiddick.
At the Steamship Authority, officials knew the storm was approaching and made plans early. “Friday was a very busy day, there was a flurry of activity,” said Robert B. Davis, treasurer at the Steamship Authority.
Mr. Davis said Steamship Authority officials had conference calls with officials with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency as early as Thursday, while the storm was still brewing off the Florida coast.
The SSA ferries Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket stopped servicing the Island at noon on Saturday.
The storm also threw a multitude of bay scallops onto Edgartown beaches. Warren Gaines, assistant shellfish constable, said that fishermen and friends of fishermen harvested hundreds of bushels, most of them adults, on Edgartown Lighthouse beach. They were free for the picking.
Some scallops were washed up on the beach inside Cape Pogue, but most of the seed and scallops were just moved closer to shore. Deputy shellfishermen spent Monday through Wednesday harvesting the juvenile scallops and moving them into deeper water.
Saturday’s storm was bigger than 1991’s Perfect Storm, though it sped past these waters a good deal faster. Even though the storm no longer was categorized as a hurricane, it did intensify while coming up the Eastern Seaboard and grew larger.
Though the center passed 70 miles southeast of Nantucket, its effects were felt well into eastern Massachusetts. The barometric pressure at the center of the storm dropped to 968 millibars. It got as low as 990 millibars at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport. The Perfect Storm’s pressure dropped no further than 972 millibars.
During Saturday’s storm, the Cape Wind tower in Nantucket Sound got a high wind gust of 91 miles per hour. There was a report of a wind gust of 80 miles per hour on Tower Hill in Edgartown.
Bill Simpson, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said Nantucket reported a two-minute sustained wind gust of 59 miles per hour. Barnstable recorded a high wind gust of 89 miles per hour.
Rainfall at the National Weather Service cooperative station in Edgartown was 2.76 inches. It was the most significant rainfall event since last May and it did much to answer the annual year deficit of rainfall.
The storm cancelled a number of events across the Island, from the Barnraisers’ Ball at the agricultural hall in West Tisbury to an Irish music performance at the Katharine Cornell Theatre in Tisbury and an oral history workshop at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum in Edgartown. Many of these events were rescheduled.