Windstorm felled trees, cut power
Cleanup crews had their hands full over the weekend removing debris from Friday's storm, for instance this large tree that fell on the Look Inn, in Vineyard Haven. Photo by Ralph Stewart
A powerful and fast-moving storm that blasted the Cape and Islands on Friday downed trees, tore out road signs, and left thousands of people without power.
Weather instruments at the Martha's Vineyard Airport measured wind gusts to nearly 70 miles per hour before the worst of the storm had even hit. The airport lost power before the storm reached its peak.
The storm hit the Island after moving from the Ohio River Valley into New England. The squall took many people by surprise. Shortly before it struck the Island, the clouds parted and the sun came out. Minutes later the sky darkened, snow began to fall, and ferocious winds picked up to near-hurricane levels.
The storm forced the Steamship Authority to cancel all boats for much of the afternoon on Friday afternoon. The airport shut down when the storm hit, and remained closed until Saturday morning.
Trees and tree limbs fell across roads and driveways and power lines, causing power outages of varying duration. Most Islanders had their power turned back on by late Friday evening, but several small areas remained without power until Saturday afternoon.
Despite the dangerous conditions, Island police departments did not report any serious injuries as a result of the storm. However, emergency personnel had their hands full with a flood of calls.
Paul Condlin, Edgartown police chief said that between 1:30 and 4:30 pm on Friday, which was the approximate duration of the fast-moving storm, his department received 19 calls for service. "It was one after another, after another," said Chief Condlin. Among the calls, police and fire officials had to respond to two separate fires, one on a utility pole, and one in a tree that was caused by a downed wire.
Chief Condlin commended emergency workers for their fast response to each of calls. "Response time was terrific with everybody," he said. "The Edgartown highway department was great in getting the trees and limbs cleaned up, and the fire department was right there. NStar crews also did a great job restoring power."
The scenario was similar in other Island towns. Beth Toomey, West Tisbury police chief said that she went to the West Tisbury School to make sure the children got home safely. "It was pretty wild," she said. "While I was standing next to the bus the little kids would get blown right past the doors. I kept reaching out and grabbing them and helping them on. I have never seen anything like it."
Other towns reported many trees and limbs down, and several minor car accidents. In Tisbury, a large tree fell on the Look Inn. It was removed on Saturday. Another tree fell on a small cottage just down the street, causing extensive damage.
Along with blowing down trees, the winds were powerful enough to move two airplanes at the airport and tear off part of the roof of the airport rescue and firefighting building. Sean Flynn, airport manager, said that the two airplanes were not damaged.
Rhandi Belain, Aquinnah police chief, said that Wampanoag Tribe's barge in Menemsha broke loose from it's mooring, but was successfully rescued. He said the other storm-related calls included several reports of fallen trees, and a downed electric wire.