Storm leaves path of destruction

Power outages and tree damage prevalent in wake of fast-moving storm.


A powerful storm toppled trips, flipped a plane at Katama Airfield, and caused extensive power outages on Martha’s Vineyard Monday.

The storm also forced the Steamship Authority to cancel trips beginning Sunday night and into Monday afternoon because of the strong winds and heavy surf in Vineyard Sound. By late Monday afternoon, ferry service resumed.

In Oak Bluffs on Katama Avenue, downed wires sparked a transformer fire overnight. Power was restored in that neighborhood at about 8:45 am. There were also trees down on both ends of the road.

According to a Times staff member, downtown Oak Bluffs lost power at 3:40 am and was without it until mid-morning.

The storm that barreled over the Vineyard early Sunday morning, mangling trees and severing power, was not a nor’easter, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Simpson. Its prevailing winds blew from the southeast, he said. Weather equipment at Martha’s Vineyard Airport detected sustained winds of 47 mph and a gust at 2:50 am of 60 mph, he said. Mashpee saw a much higher gust at 3:44 am of 93 mph, Mr. Simpson said. The official rainfall total on the Vineyard was 1.3 inches, he said, but the heaviest rain, “upwards of five inches,” fell in the western part of the state.

Aquinnah Police Chief Randhi Belain said a tree snapped off the top of a pole near 7 East Pasture Lane, leaving “10 or fewer” people without power. Eversource had not yet arrived when he spoke to The Times Monday.

“Our midnight shift was very busy,” Oak Bluffs Police Sgt. Michael Marchand said in a phone call to The Times. “Most of the morning has been the same.” Sgt. Marchand said the department fielded calls for downed lines, broken tree limbs, and various alarms through the night, but most of the reports were still unfinished as of Monday. Between 2:30 am and 9 am, the police station lost power, along with a good portion of the downtown area, he said.

“Eversource’s response was fabulous,” Tisbury Fire Chief John Schilling said. He commended the utility giant for pre-positioning crews on-Island. Multiple fallen trees and branches on Main and Franklin Streets effectively isolated West Chop Monday morning until Tisbury DPW and the Tisbury fire department cut open the roadways, the chief said. A “massive oak fell on Summer Street, taking out a stretch of power line and just missing a house,” he said. A transformer and pole went down near Park Avenue, he said. The chief pointed out a couple of incidents of unnecessary risk when people approached downed wires to call in the numbers off telephone poles. People must never do this, he warned, because of electrocution hazards.

And though such an incident didn’t occur after this storm, the chief said people must “never, ever” spray a garden hose at a burning utility pole if they plan on living. Storm issues carried over into Tuesday, according to the chief, when fallen branches ruined an electrical component outside a Vineyard Haven house and sent too much electricity inside, sending sparks out from fuses and popping light bulbs.

The storm even knocked over the Island Alpaca sign in Oak Bluffs. “It must have been a fierce wind to take this down,” owner Barbara Ronchetti wrote in an email to The Times.

Power outages forced Tisbury officials to close the Town Hall Annex. The affected departments included board of health, planning board, building, and zoning.

At 3:20 pm Monday, Eversource spokeswoman Rhiannon D’Angelo told The Times “a little over 300 customers are without power” on Martha’s Vineyard. The Upper and Mid Cape were hit hardest, she said.

At one point Monday morning, 100 percent of the homes in Aquinnah were without electricity, according to Eversource’s map of outages. By Tuesday morning, the same map showed nearly 100 percent of electricity had been restored across the Island.

A spokesman for the state Department of Transportation wrote in an email to The Times that the Registry of Motor Vehicles on the Island, closed Monday morning due to a power outage, opened at 1 pm.

Chilmark executive secretary Tim Carroll told The Times the town’s highway department has been very busy with chainsaws. They cut up seven fallen trees, he said.

Edgartown Police Sergeant Michael Gazaille said Patrolman Curtis Chandler spied a flipped airplane at Katama Field Monday morning. He inspected it for leaking fuel, and found none. He later informed airport officials of the plane’s condition. Tail-number information identified the owner as Robert Heaphy of West Tisbury, Sgt. Gazaille said. Calls by The Times to a number listed for Mr. Heaphy were not immediately returned. Sgt. Gazaille also said the storm brought down a large tree across Clevelandtown Road, blocking it until the Edgartown Highway Department could get to it and saw it up. Edgartown otherwise escaped significant headaches from the storm, Sgt. Gazaille said, save for “about a million alarms.”

George Brennan contributed to this article.