Powerful storm didn’t knock out power

Coastal flooding was biggest impact from Thursday’s big blow.

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In the end, the Jan. 4 storm that hit Martha’s Vineyard may be remembered more for what it didn’t do than what it did. It was more wet than white, and its powerful winds did tumble trees, but didn’t issue the knockout blow to electricity that is often a concern.

At the storm’s height, 97 customers were without power in West Tisbury, according to Eversource’s website. There were scattered outages at other points during the day.

In an email to The Times, Michael Durand, an Eversource spokesman, points out just how lucky the Vineyard was in Thursday’s storm.

“It’s very difficult to speculate on why some storms cause more damage than others in specific areas,” he wrote. “I know we restored power to more than 75,000 customers in total during yesterday’s storm, so this one did have significant impact on our system. But why it was most of the impact was on the Cape, South Shore, and South Coast is probably a question for the meteorologists.”

Roads were closed along the coast of down-Island towns as an astronomically affected high tide inundated coastal areas. Roaring winds pushed water across Beach Road in Vineyard Haven, inundating not only more common flood zones like Five Corners but also the Shell station, parts of R.M. Packer Co. and Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard, and the roadway along the seawall.

Also, in Vineyard Haven, the powerful surge appears to have damaged the dock at the shucking shack on Skiff Avenue. Paul Bangs, who has repaired the dock and shucking shack many times before, was knee-deep in the water today, removing large blocks of ice from the broken dock using a chainsaw. “It’s just a hard winter,” Mr. Bangs said. “Sometimes you have no damage at all. I’ve rebuilt this dock many times, though. I’ll just have to do it again.”

Downed trees also caused road closures. A large pine stretched across Scotchman’s Bridge Lane in West Tisbury Thursday afternoon. In Tisbury, Franklin Street was closed for about an hour because of a downed tree, according to the town’s website.

Ferry service to the Island was interrupted on Thursday and early Friday morning as the Steamship Authority canceled boats. Even the Chappy Ferry shut down for an extended period on Thursday because of the storm’s fury.

Cape Air canceled all of its flights in and out of Martha’s Vineyard Airport, though the airport itself never shut down, and was available for private or medical-related flights. Vineyard Transit Authority altered its service, but never stopped running either.

Schools were closed Thursday, and delayed Friday. Many town offices either closed for the day Thursday or closed early, as did businesses. Edgartown District Court was closed Thursday, under state order that all of the commonwealth’s courthouses would shutter during the storm.

Some of the flash freezing that was predicted did occur, as temperatures quickly plummeted late Thursday into Friday. Surfaces that weren’t cleared of the slushy mix were caked with ice.

Some side streets remained nearly impassable because of the ice that followed Thursday’s storm.

The Island was home to bitter cold temperatures, at times reaching single digits, all weekend long, just as the National Weather Service had predicted, due to “arctic air pushing across the region.”

According to stats compiled by the National Weather Service, Aquinnah had the most powerful wind gust recorded during the storm, at 67 mph.

A shutdown at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station occurred at approximately 2 pm Thursday, in the midst of the storm, when the nuclear plant lost one of its two electric lines. The shutdown was manual and done as a precaution, Entergy spokesman Patrick O’Brien said. Entergy won’t disclose when the station will go back online, he said, because that knowledge is proprietary.

“A combination of snow, ice, and blizzard conditions resulted in one of two 345,000-volt transmission lines serving the Pilgrim plant to go offline yesterday,” Eversource spokesman Michael Durand emailed The Times on Friday. “In addition to repairing a section of the line, we’re also proactively conducting inspections of the line with both a helicopter and a track vehicle along the length of the right-of-way where it’s located. This will give us complete confidence that the line is trouble-free when we bring it back into service.” Mr. Durand noted that Eversource delivers power to the station via a second transmission line and a low-voltage distribution line too, and that those lines are operational. Eversource expected to return the line to service on Saturday morning, he said.

Chappaquiddick was hit hard by the storm. The Trustees of Reservations Martha’s Vineyard superintendent Chris Kennedy reports a considerable amount of beach was washed away at Norton Point. “Norton Point got hammered; we lost 500 feet of beach in some places,” he said. Mr. Kennedy said the trail leading to the gatehouse, which used to be sheltered by a dune on the ocean side, is now completely exposed. The erosion will be inspected once the area thaws, he told The Times.

The Dike Bridge was closed after water that flooded the causeways leading to the bridge froze, blocking the entrance.

 

Reporters Gabrielle Mannino, Rich Saltzberg, and Barry Stringfellow contributed to this report.