Earl brought wind, rain, but left questions in his wake


Hurricane Earl brought brisk wind and heavy rain to Martha’s Vineyard Friday night, but not much else. Other than public safety personnel, most people slept through the storm as it passed by Nantucket in the middle of the night.

There were no reports of any major storm-related damage. The highest wind gust did not exceed 45 miles per hour (mph) at the height of the fast-moving storm and on average winds were below 30 mph.

The Steamship Authority stopped its last boat on the Vineyard run at 6 pm Friday, due more to a lack of customers than to weather conditions. At 6 am Saturday morning normal ferry service resumed on the Vineyard route. The SSA resumed service on the Nantucket route at 7:30 am.

The Chappy Ferry, which suspended service Friday afternoon, resumed service at 5 am, Saturday morning between Edgartown and Chappaquiddick. Owner Peter Wells told The Times the suspension of service was per order of the Coast Guard. “If an emergency run was necessary, I would have had to obtain permission from the Coast Guard to make the trip. The Coast Guard is very cautious, as are we,” Mr. Wells said.

Edgartown police chief Tony Bettencourt said there was not much to report beyond numerous alarm calls, a few flooded basements and several road closures during the height of the storm due to flooding.

“Our police station had a flooded basement with several inches of standing water outside the entire building,” Chief Bettencourt said in an email received early Saturday. “Ten people at the shelter. Other than that we were well prepared and we should thank the people of Edgartown for preparing themselves and listening to the advisories. As of now South Beach is open to swimming.”

Tim Carroll, Chilmark executive secretary, said early Saturday that his town was back to normal and surfers were reaping the benefits of the storm.

“Sunrise this morning showed we had survived the storm and that surfers were arriving at Squibnocket Beach,” Mr. Carroll said in an email. “There appears to be no loss of power and no obvious damage from the tropical storm. We have closed the shelter at the Community Center and have returned town operations to normal.”

What storm

While Vineyard officials prepared for the hurricane by declaring travel bans and requesting that businesses close, Nantucketers took a wait-and–see approach and ultimately decided there was no need for dramatic action, even as the storm passed just to the east.

About 10 am, Friday, the Nantucket police chief, who also doubles as the emergency management director, urged people to take sensible precautions, such as taping windows. Elizabeth Gibson, Nantucket town manager, said there was no state of emergency declaration, and the only closure was related to swimming Friday.

The Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror reported, “Nantucketers braced for Hurricane Earl’s fury, but the most highly anticipated storm since Hurricane Bob hit in 1991 yielded little more than the heavy downpour and stiff winds to which year-round islanders are accustomed from blustery winter weather. By Saturday morning, town officials confirmed that no injuries, power outages, or major storm damage had been reported.”

Wrong message

In the aftermath of the hurricane, residents and public officials questioned the announcement of a road closure at 2 pm Friday over the County Code Red system.

Local authorities cannot close roads.

Several towns notified residents of a travel advisory beginning at 2 pm Friday and lasting for 24 hours. Edgartown later revised that advisory to 8 pm. In a memo, Oak Bluffs referred to road closures.

West Tisbury selectman Richard Knabel said the system worked but delivered the wrong message.

“I have received a number of angry emails from people complaining about the ‘road closure’ message that went out on Code Red on Thursday,” Mr. Knabel said in an email to The Times. “That message was the maiden voyage of the system, and technically it seems to have worked quite well — the message got out there. However, it was the wrong message, and that’s what’s disturbing.”

In a call to The Times, Jack Hughes of Vineyard Haven said the decision to issue a travel ban even as conditions changed caused a lot of business and workers to lose money. “What’s going to happen if there’s a three-day northeaster,” he asked. “Are they going to keep people indoors for three days?”