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The Martha's Vineyard Times

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President’s List

Kunal Datta from Oak Bluffs at Bentley University.

Jessica Willoughby from Edgartown at West Virginia University.

Dean’s List

Michael Piland from West Tisbury at Bentley University.

Susa Breese from Vineyard Haven of Hyde School in Bath, Maine.

Jessica Louise Kelleher from West Tisbury at the University of Connecticut.

Micheli Lynn from Vineyard Haven at Roger Williams University.

Sheila McHugh from Edgartown at Roger Williams University.

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Gannon and Benjamin boatyard in Vineyard Haven was weathering the storm Tuesday. Photo by Steve Myrick.

Updated 2 pm, Tuesday

The first significant blizzard to strike Martha’s Vineyard in years arrived Monday night with driving snow and wind gusts of hurricane force. The light of day Tuesday revealed deep, drifting snow and roadways that were nearly impassable for all but the heaviest vehicles.

A plow works up Main Street in Vineyard Haven.
A plow works up Main Street in Vineyard Haven.

Those who did venture out reported hazardous driving conditions. About 11 am, emergency management officials closed Beach Road between Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs, and between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, due to flooding.

Superintendent of Schools James Weiss announced Tuesday that schools would remain closed Wednesday.

Tisbury and Oak Bluffs also announced town offices and buildings would remain closed Wednesday. A Tisbury parking ban will also remain in effect.

Local and state highway crews were out in force through the night, plowing main roadways. Highway crews focused on main routes, to keep at least one roadway clear for emergency vehicles.

Beach Road was declared closed between Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs.
Beach Road was declared closed between Vineyard Haven and Oak Bluffs.

Governor Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency, and instituted a ban on driving that went into effect at midnight. Early Tuesday, two vehicles were off the road and stuck on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road at about 7:30 am, causing problems for plow-truck drivers for a short time.

Utility repair crews, including some called in from off-Island before the storm, were out on the roads, but there were very few outages reported. Heavy winds hampered the crew’s ability to use elevated buckets.

NSTAR reported seven customers without power in West Tisbury, and eight customers without power in Oak Bluffs, at 10:45 am Tuesday.

Snow was the icing of the day at the Black Dog Bakery on Water Street in Vineyard Haven.
Snow was the icing of the day at the Black Dog Bakery on Water Street in Vineyard Haven. –Photo by Nicole Jackson

There was some coastal flooding along north- and east-facing shorelines, especially in the usual places vulnerable during storms. Salt spray washed over the sea wall on Sea View Avenue in Oak Bluffs, near Farm Pond. The roadway was flooded and all but impassable on the causeway near the Lagoon Pond drawbridge in Vineyard Haven.

Snow depths varied greatly, because of blowing and drifting snow. In some areas, most of the snow blew away, leaving patches of bare ground. On one side street in Oak Bluffs, one lane was plowed, leaving snow banks of three to five feet on either side.

Latest forecast

Nothing going on at the Steamship Authority.
Nothing going on at the Steamship Authority.

Steady gale-force winds battered the Island overnight and into the morning. At about 9 am, the National Weather Service recorded sustained winds of 31 miles per hour, with gusts up to 58 miles per hour. At about 2 am, sustained winds were measured at 44 miles per hour, with gusts up to 67 miles per hour.

The National Weather Service predicted the worst of the storm will be through this afternoon, then diminish tonight. Northeast winds from 35 to 45 miles per hour are expected to continue, with gusts between 65 and 75 mph through early afternoon.

“All unnecessary travel is discouraged,” the National Weather Service said. “This is a serious, life-threatening storm.”

All quiet at shelter

The Alabama rides out the storm.
The Alabama rides out the storm.

As the wind howled outside, the Tisbury School gymnasium was eerily dark and empty early Tuesday morning, and only a few of the 30 cots looked like they had been slept in last night. In the school cafeteria, the volunteers outnumbered the evacuees. Only two people sought shelter last night, according to volunteer Brian Kennedy of Oak Bluffs. “We have 11 volunteers from the Island and four Red Cross staff on hand,” Mr. Kennedy said. “We fed eight off-Island utility crews earlier in the morning. The crews were notified that conditions were too dangerous to go out, and went back to their hotel until further instructions.”

Mr. Kennedy said the volunteers had just completed a call with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), and were told all of Nantucket had lost power and it would be days before power is restored: “We’ve been very lucky that the power has stayed on for the most part. We’re in a lot better shape than Nantucket, that’s for sure.”

The shelter will remain open until 10 am, Wednesday.

Kept busy

Emergency responders were kept busy throughout the morning responding to reports of stuck vehicles and house alarms.

Firefighters were alerted to a call of a carbon monoxide alarm at a house on North Neck Road on Chappaquiddick. The 911 dispatcher reported that the responding firefighter had found the road impassable “so he’s going to walk in.”

About one-half hour later, the firefighter reported back, “Nothing showing at that residence.”

An anxious husband called 911 to report that his wife had left her vehicle and was on skis in the Long Point section of West Tisbury, intending to ski to the caretaker’s cottage at the Trustees property, but had texted him to say she felt like going to sleep. Rescue personnel responded, battling deep snow, and later reported that the woman had arrived.

Island prepared

Storm preparations began in earnest on Monday.

beach house shop windowFollowing a meeting of of Island public-safety officials called to discuss the approaching blizzard, Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent of Schools James Weiss announced that all afterschool activities were canceled, and that school was canceled Tuesday.

Edgartown and Tisbury announced parking bans on town streets.

The Steamship Authority announced it was operating on a trip-by-trip basis, and would suspend service on Tuesday. By 6 pm the boats had ceased to run.

Shelters were quiet.
Shelters were quiet.

As the storm began to intensify, Island residents began receiving automated calls as part of the county’s Code Red warning system. The recorded message advised Islanders what to do to prepare, and announced the opening of a shelter at the Tisbury School gym.

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The Vineyard Haven Steamship Authority terminal was shuttered Tuesday.

Updated 11 am, Wednesday

The Steamship Authority is back to operating normally

The Steamship Authority advised customers to check the boatline website steamshipauthority.com, for further announcements regarding ferry service.

Individual trip cancellations may be viewed on the Steamship Authority’s Current Conditions Page at: http://www.steamshipauthority.com/ssa/opschoice.cfm

Betty Robichau, 98, of Edgartown died on Friday evening, January 23, 2015 at the Henrietta Brewer House. She was predeceased by her husband, Joseph B. Robichau, Jr. in March of 2006. She is survived by her son, Joseph B. Robichau 3rd. There will be no funeral service. A complete obituary will appear in another edition of this paper. Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home, Edgartown Road, Oak Bluffs. Visitwww.ccgfuneralhome.com for online guest book and information.

Menemsha was not a blizzard of activity Tuesday. Photo by Rich Saltzberg.

Updated 12:05 pm, Wednesday

Schools cancelled Wednesday

Martha’s Vineyard Superintendent of Schools James Weiss announced that school is cancelled Wednesday.

Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, Edgartown, Chilmark offices will remain closed Wednesday

Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, Chilmark and Tisbury town offices will remain closed through Wednesday. Aquinnah and West Tisbury may open. Call first.

Edgartown District Court closed Wednesday

County offices will be closed Wednesday

Vineyard Transit Authority

Routes 1 and 13 are running normally, other routes are on a sunday schedule.

Tisbury Vision Planning workshop cancelled

The joint meeting of the Tisbury planning board and selectmen at 7 pm, Wednesday at the Tisbury Senior Center to provide an update on the town’s vision-planning process has been cancelled.

ACE MV classes cancelled Wednesday

Chilmark Library closed

The Chilmark Library will remain closed on Wednesday. The Chowder and a Movie program scheduled for noon and the Library Board of Trustees scheduled for 3 pm are cancelled.

Vineyard Haven Library closed

Due to the extended parking ban in Tisbury the Vineyard Haven Public Library will be closed for the day on Wednesday and all library programs cancelled.

Tisbury parking ban remains

Tisbury’s parking ban will remain in effect through 6 pm, Wednesday.

Stop and Shop weathers storm

The Stop and Shop In Vineyard Haven and Edgartown remained open Tuesday.

SSA cancels 6 am, Vineyard Haven to Woods Hole boat 

All others boats are on a trip by trip basis.

Vineyard Medical Care walk-in will remain closed Wednesday

Tisbury shelter opened

The Salvation Army and the Red Cross will operate a shelter at the Tisbury School gym until 10 am, Wednesday.

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital open for essential services only

Martha’s Vineyard Hospital will provide only essential and emergency services through Tuesday. Patients with appointments are asked to contact their provider directly regarding services on Wednesday. In the event of an emergency, please dial 911.

The Hospital’s main number is 508-693-0410.

Power outages

Residents are advised to report down power lines, Call NSTAR at 800-592-2000. Call NSTAR at 800-592-2000 to report a power outage.

Be cautious with vents

Clear home heating vents to protect against potential carbon monoxide hazards.

East Chop Drive closed

East Chop Drive will be closed from 4 pm, Monday until 6 pm, Wednesday between Brewster and Munroe Avenue due to concerns of erosion.

The Island Home sets sail. — File Photo by Michael Cummo

Updated 10 pm, Sunday

The Steamship Authority (SSA) has alerted customers to a winter storm watch issued by the National Weather Service from 7 pm, Monday until 1 am, Wednesday.

“Based on the current forecast, the Steamship Authority anticipates possible service disruptions Monday evening and Tuesday,” the SSA said. The SSA advised customers to check the Authority’s website for further updates.

To make or modify a reservation call 508-477-8600, go online at steamshipauthority.com, or visit one of the terminals.

Current SSA conditions may be viewed at steamshipauthority.com/ssa/OpsInfo.cfm.

The National Weather Service said “a crippling and potentially historic blizzard will impact the

area mainly from late Monday into Tuesday, lingering into early Wednesday.

A blizzard warning remains in effect from 7 pm, Monday to noon, Tuesday.

Heavy snow, strong winds and blizzard conditions with considerable blowing and drifting snow and strong to damaging winds are predicted.

The worst of the storm will be Monday night through Tuesday afternoon. There will be a period where heavy snow will change over to rain, mainly during the day Tuesday before changing back over to snow.

Winds will be north-northeast, 35 to 45 mph with gusts around 70 to 80 mph. The height of the winds will be late Monday night into Tuesday.

All unnecessary travel is discouraged beginning Monday afternoon to allow people already on the road to safely reach their destination before the heavy snow begins and to allow

snow removal equipment to begin to clear roads.

To the Editor:

There is much to be said about the Steamship Authority situation. This letter can only touch on a few issues.

On Tuesday, about 50 people attended the SSA meeting in Woods Hole, partly to address issues raised by a petition asking for a rate rollback, signed by almost 3,000 people, most of whom are from the Vineyard, with substantial numbers from Nantucket.

The authority continues to resist this action. At the meeting, the SSA said that sources tell them that oil prices will be back up to $75 a barrel in a year, and that they do not want to roll back rates for what may be a very temporary drop in oil prices.

Predicting the future is an iffy game, but the predictions of others familiar with the oil market contradict the SSA argument for a near-future return to high oil prices. J.P. Morgan sees significant oil market weakness, and expects oil to go below $40, with only a gradual return to $90, and that not until 2019. From Wednesday’s news we have: “Reuters — Oil fell as much as 5 percent on Tuesday after the International Monetary Fund cut its 2015 global economic forecast and key producer Iran hinted prices could drop to $25 a barrel without supportive OPEC action.”

The message from the SSA is that they’d really prefer to keep the fare-increase money. They can find plenty of ways to spend it. In their favor, some of those ways are probably necessary. But one of the main arguments for that increase has vaporized. Many Islanders are financially stressed already.

But in some ways the fare issue is just a sideshow, or even a red herring. The SSA’s terminal-rebuilding project in Woods Hole has a projected cost of about $62 million. That does not include $6 million for a new administrative office building. There are still no estimates for the cost of moving the maintenance department out of Woods Hole to a more distant location. That cost will also be in the millions of dollars.

Right now the Town of Falmouth has no SSA representative, and is voiceless. That town deserves to be heard. The SSA should have the courtesy to wait for Falmouth to give them a representative.

Meanwhile, on Martha’s Vineyard, the SSA has not bothered to give us a public presentation or even a defense of this expensive plan. None of the county commissioners I’ve spoken to have even seen the plans for this project, except for possibly a quick glimpse of the modest amount of information that’s been published in Island newspapers.

While it’s late in the process, there is still ample time for the SSA to put a halt to these plans, and to come up with better alternatives that are adequate, simple, and less expensive. They must then be willing to show all us us that what they propose is indeed a good and necessary thing. Until then they should not go further.

The ocean is not rising so fast that these expensive projects must be put on such a fast track.

There is more to say, but enough for now.

Thomas Hodgson

West Tisbury

Try to stop giggling.

A concerned owner called the other day. Solly, the family dog, was passing stools that looked black. Go ahead. Get the giggling out of your system now. We’re gonna talk about poop. There’s no lack of euphemisms for digestive waste, but technically it’s called feces, and feces often give important information about what’s happening inside an animal’s gastrointestinal tract. (Remember this next time you think being a veterinarian is a romantic profession.) So what can it mean, that Solly had this dark stool?

The majority of times when owners report black stool, when I see the sample myself, it is actually just very dark brown, a normal variation. The color of what goes in affects the color of what comes out. “Did anyone give Solly Pepto-Bismol?” I asked. Pepto-Bismol, or any product containing bismuth subsalicylate, can turn stool black. Weird, huh? How does bright pink medication do this? Sulfur in the saliva interacts with the bismuth to form bismuth sulfide … which is black. Ingested charcoal can also make stool black — if Solly chewed on burned wood from the firepit or briquettes spilled from the barbecue, or if a veterinarian intentionally administered activated charcoal, as we might do after a dog ingests certain toxic substances. But, no, Solly hadn’t had bismuth subsalicyclate or charcoal.

“How is he feeling?” I asked. Dark, tar-like stools can indicate bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract, anywhere from the nose and mouth down to the small intestines. The blood gets digested, so when it comes out the other end, it is no longer red. The presence of black, tarry stool caused by digested blood is called melena. Most dogs suffering from significant internal hemorrhage will have other signs consistent with blood loss, such as weakness and pale gums. But Solly was feeling fine.

“Is he on any medications?” I asked. There are a large number of drugs that can cause stomach ulcers. Ulcers can cause hemorrhage. Hemorrhage can cause melena. The most common drugs involved in this scenario are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, AKA NSAIDs, including veterinary prescription drugs like Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Metacam, or Previcox. Or your veterinarian may dispense generic versions of the same NSAIDs. Owners often make the mistake of giving pets over-the-counter NSAIDs intended for people. Dogs (and cats) are not just furry, four-legged people. These products in your medicine cabinet can cause life-threatening problems if given to your pets. Always check with your veterinarian before administering any medication. I occasionally suggest aspirin for dogs (cat owners: Don’t do it!) but other over-the-counter NSAIDs such as ibuprofen (Advil), or naprosyn (Aleve) can cause  nasty problems. Naprosyn in particular can lead to severe gastrointestinal hemorrhage in dogs. Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, are another potentially problematic class of medications frequently prescribed for things such as skin problems and allergies. Most dogs  handle them just fine, but rarely, an individual will develop significant gastrointestinal bleeding. With any of these medications, long-term use increases the risk. It’s also important to consider drug interactions. NSAIDs should never be given at the same time as corticosteroids. But Solly wasn’t taking anything.

There are other less common causes of melena: anything that interferes with normal blood clotting such as anticoagulant rat poison, or bleeding disorders such as autoimmune thrombocytopenia. Inflammatory diseases like hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, pancreatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. Foreign bodies that irritate or perforate the GI tract. Liver or kidney failure, which may lead to clotting problems or stomach ulcers. Cancer. Even intestinal worms, if there are enough of them. Usually such cases will exhibit other signs of illness besides the melena. Not so with hematochezia.

Hemato …  what? Hematochezia. That’s the medical term for bright red streaks of blood in the stool, a very different situation from the dark, tarry appearance of melena. In younger dogs, hematochezia is often caused by intestinal parasites, or just by eating stupid things: birdseed, acorns, hair — stuff that irritates the rectum and/or anus on its way out. Older dogs are less likely to have worms, though it never hurts to run a fecal study to rule out such parasites, as well as a test for protozoa like Giardia. I am rarely concerned about a single episode of a little blood in a formed stool if the animal is feeling completely fine otherwise, but persistent hematochezia warrants a trip to the veterinarian. One of the first things we do is examine under the dog’s tail for anal-sac infections, tumors, and other perianal problems such as trauma, fistulas, or hernias. If all looks normal, we then have to decide whether to pursue definitive diagnosis or just try nonspecific therapy.

Many of these dogs have “colitis,” i.e. inflammation of the colon, resulting in diarrhea, straining, increased frequency and urgency of defecation, and mucoid stools, as well as hematochezia. Why is the colon inflamed?  Underlying etiologies can run the gamut: food intolerance, stress, many types of infections, cancer. Pinning down the culprit can be difficult. Owners often opt to start with dietary changes, such as feeding bland, easily digested food in multiple, small meals, and empirical medications that may help with colitis, regardless of the cause.

Solly did not have hematochezia. No bright red blood. Did he truly have melena, or was this simply a “false-positive” dark stool? Ah, I hear you thinking. “Can’t she just run that test they do for people to check for blood in the stool?” Nope. The occult fecal blood test requires three days of vegetarian diet prior to testing. Otherwise all we would learn is that Solly eats dog food, dog food contains meat, meat contains blood. Since he didn’t have diarrhea, his appetite was good, and he was feeling fine, I suggested feeding a bland diet and continued observation. If the dark stools persisted or if Solly wasn’t feeling well, they should bring him in. I haven’t heard back, so I am assuming no news is good news. That’s today’s scoop on poop. Now grow up. Stop giggling.

To the Editor:

A story published Jan. 15, “Oak Bluffs FinCom objects to hike in school assessment,” suggested that the vote of the Oak Bluffs Finance Committee on Dec. 18, 2014, to send letters to the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School Committee and the All-Island School Committee was unanimous. It was not.

Six members voted yes and two voted no. One member was absent. At the time of the vote the committee did not have budget information for other town departments, so another member and I thought that sending the letter was, at best, premature.

Maura McGroarty

Oak Bluffs

Beatrice Duart Viera died peacefully on January 19, 2015 at Windemere Nursing Facility. She was 89. Services are being planned and a complete obituary will be published in the next newspaper edition. Arrangements are under the care of the Chapman, Cole & Gleason Funeral Home, Oak Bluffs.