Rick Herrick>



This Monday is the 56th anniversary of Hurricane Carol, one of the worst storms to ever hit the New England coast. What began as a tropical storm over the Bahamas on August 25, 1954, gradually strengthened as it traveled northwest. It made landfall on Long Island as a category three hurricane on August 30, pummeling the Vineyard coastline on noon of that day.

At around that time, during the height of the storm, Ruth Nerney took her sons, Nick and Dexter, to the Carnie home across from Crystal Lake. There they watched waves break over the beach road into Crystal Lake. All the homes along lower beach road had been evacuated with water flooding the first floors. Muskrats were bobbing up and down on the lake along with chairs, boxes, and boats.

Carol Traenkle and her mom, Grove Hanschka, ventured out around the same time. Their goal was to walk from their home on Troy street to the lighthouse and back. As they began to ascend the hill to the lighthouse, the blowing sand became so intense that they had to turn back. In the fifteen minutes that had elapsed since the start of their journey, the beach road near the old Sherman house had become inundated with water; large boulders were rolling along the street. Their only path to safety was to swim fifty feet across the road to dry ground on the Bell’s lawn.

Meanwhile the Beach Club was a mess. In our corner of the harbor, boats had been lifted off of their moorings and were floating over the bulkhead. With Doug Smerdon lashed to a telephone pole taking movies of this scary scene, Joan Perrine, Bob Huss, and a crew of fifteen worked frantically to tie the boats to the fence to prevent further damage.

As the storm subsided that afternoon, Ruth Nerney finally gained the confidence to go into town for supplies. With seven-year-old Dexter egging her on and begging his mother “not to be a sissy,” they navigated roads that were covered with more than a foot of water and littered with debris. The sight on the park that fronts the Ocean View Restaurant looked like a child’s room with toys that needed picking up. There were 10 to 15 boats lying in various stages of disrepair on the grass. Vineyard Haven harbor was depressing. Boats were on shore, strewn across docks, and smashed up against jetties.

I write this column of remembrance with a political purpose in mind. Another hurricane of the magnitude of Carol could hit the Vineyard at any time. As we as a community have discussed for more than a year, the bluff along East Chop Drive is vulnerable to such a storm. Last year the East Chop Association voted to give the bluff to the town of Oak Bluffs because only the town has the funding sources to protect the bluff when it comes to a major hurricane. It is time for the town to take action on this matter.

We as a community also remember with great fondness Dotty Pruden. Dotty died peacefully on Wednesday, August 4. She was 81 years old.

Dotty first came to the Vineyard in the late 1940s when she was a student at Wellesley College. As her children were growing up, her family came to East Chop for the entire summer. She was treasurer of the tennis club from 1967 to 1977, and a very important person in my life. She paid me weekly. A memorial service will be held at the tennis club on Saturday, Sept. 4 at 5:30 p.m. Please come join the family in honoring this wonderful woman.