Limited ferry service resumes, blizzard winding down

Summer seemed a long way away on Wednesday. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Updated 5:15 pm Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Steamship Authority resumed limited ferry service at 1:30 pm Wednesday. The M/V Martha’s Vineyard left Vineyard Haven bound for Woods Hole, the first trip of the stormy day. All other trips are still temporarily suspended, according to a statement from the Steamship Authority.

Earlier Wednesday, school officials cancelled all classes for public schools. The announcement came shortly after 5 am as a powerful and potentially dangerous blizzard battered the Cape and Islands. Forecasters called the intense collision of two low pressure systems  an “incredibly powerful extra-tropical storm,” with conditions at the storm center about 200 miles southeast of Nantucket the most severe seen since 1993, according to National Weather Service meteorologists.

In an updated high wind warning issued at 4:57 am Wednesday morning, The National Weather Service advised Cape and Island residents to expect hurricane force wind gusts later this morning. The high wind warning remains in effect until 8 pm. The blizzard warning,  and a coastal flood advisory for northeast and east facing shorelines of Martha’s Vineyard were lifted Wednesday afternoon.

NSTAR reported between 1,000 and 2,500 customers without power in Edgartown at 11 am, but about an hour later, there were only a few scattered power outages, according to the NSTAR outage map . There were outages in most Cape Cod towns, throughout the day, including Barnstable, Yarmouth, and Orleans, where between 1,000 and 2,500 homes and businesses in each of those towns were without power, according to NSTAR.

Sustained winds of about 30 miles per hour were recorded by weather instruments at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport this morning, with gusts up to 59 miles per hour.

All town offices in Edgartown will be closed Wednesday, including town hall, the library, and the Council on Aging. The Dukes County District Court building in Edgartown is closed for the day.

The Oak Bluffs town hall, library, and Council on Aging will also be closed Wednesday. East Chop Drive between Monroe Avenue and Brewster Avenue will be closed from 6 am Wednesday to 8 am Thursday.

The town of Tisbury will impose a parking ban beginning at 10 pm Tuesday evening, until 10 am Wednesday morning. All Tisbury town buildings will be closed Wednesday, including the town hall, library, and Council on Aging.

West Tisbury town offices will be closed Wednesday, because of the storm. The up-Island Council on Aging in West Tisbury is closed for the day.

The YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard will delay opening on Wednesday until noon, and could delay further, depending on the weather.

Cape Air has cancelled all flights from the Martha’s Vineyard Airport on Wednesday. The airport will remain open as weather conditions dictate, according to manager Sean Flynn.

Peter Pan Bus Lines has cancelled Wednesday service from most of its Cape Cod terminals, including Woods Hole.

The latest weather service forecast calls for 4 to 8 inches of snow on the Island, and sustained winds of  30 to 40 miles per hour, with higher gusts, as the powerful blizzard brushes the Cape and Islands.

“Heavy snow and strong winds will result in near zero visibilities at times very late tonight into Wednesday,” the forecasters wrote in the blizzard warning. “Travel may become impossible at times. Northerly wind gusts between 60 and 70 miles per hour will result in downed trees and power outages. This is a dangerous storm and travel is not recommended.”

The National Weather Service lifted a coastal flooding advisory for Martha’s Vineyard a storm warning for all Massachusetts and Rhode Island coastal waters, and issued a stern warning to mariners.

“A life threatening storm will bring hurricane force wind gusts and seas exceeding 25 feet across portions of the eastern Atlantic waters,” forecasters wrote in the storm warning released at 2:13 pm Tuesday. “Mariners should return to port immediately.”

The U.S. Coast Guard began implementing its plans to deal with impact of the ocean storm yesterday.

“Coast Guard HC-144 air crews from Air Station Cape Cod are conducting ‘storm track warning’ overflights to evaluate vessel traffic and advise boaters, fisherman and commercial vessels of anticipated weather conditions,” the Coast Guard said in a press release. “Other Coast Guard units throughout the region are also conducting similar outreach in collaboration with fellow law enforcement and first responders.”

Forecasters also expect a storm surge well above the normal high tide. High tide on the northern shoreline of Martha’s Vineyard will come at the height of the storm, about 5 am in Aquinnah and Menemsha, and about 8 am in Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Edgartown.

The weather service says minor coastal flooding is likely on the Island. “A very powerful ocean storm will produce a storm surge of 2 to 3 feet and waves 15 to 25 feet a short distance offshore.” Forecasters expect significant coastal erosion from the storm.