Rain overwhelms storm drains in Vineyard Haven

Steamship Authority diverts some of its Oak Bluffs trips.

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Friday’s torrential downpours dumped 3.4 inches of rain in West Tisbury during a two-hour window, and caused significant erosion to the Gay Head Cliffs at Aquinnah.

“It’s not the total amount of rainfall, it’s how quickly it falls,” said Bill Simpson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Taunton office. Some spots on the Island likely got even more rainfall during that brief window, he said.

The cliffs lost an estimated 500 cubic yards of material from two areas, Bret Stearns, director of natural resources for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), said Monday.

“It was a pretty substantial area of erosion,” he said. “There was a tremendous amount of clay in the water.”

That’s been washed away in recent days by the moon tides, Mr. Stearns said.

A large boulder also dropped about 15 feet on its way to a watery resting spot below, Mr. Stearns said. “That’s where we will go bass fishing someday,” he said.

The cliffs are weakened at this time of year by cliff swallows that nest in the cliffs, which likely exacerbated the amount of material scarped away, Mr. Stearns said.

Meanwhile, down-Island, the flood of Martha’s Vineyard visitors got a taste of how the Island roads can be overwhelmed during a storm.

Cars traveling on Beach Road and Water Street in Vineyard Haven looked like motor boats as they cut wakes through the flooded roadways. The Black Dog Bakery piled sandbags in front of its doors to keep rising water from inundating the building.

The storm also posed problems for the Steamship Authority, which diverted ferries from Oak Bluffs to Vineyard Haven.

Vineyard Haven wasn’t the only place feeling the effects of this storm. There were deep puddles Up-Island in West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah, as well. In some spots, there were large deposits of gravel on the roadways.

The National Weather Service warned of waterspout potential earlier in the day, but none were reported.