A powerful nor’easter clobbered Martha’s Vineyard Tuesday night into Wednesday with destructive winds, pounding surf, and drenching rain.
Trees were downed all across the Island, causing thousands of customers to lose their electricity. Schools were canceled for the day, town offices were closed, and some businesses also shuttered. Martha’s Vineyard Community Services initially announced a late opening, and then closed for the day, citing the safety of its clients.
Meanwhile, the Steamship Authority began canceling ferry service Tuesday afternoon, and then suspended service indefinitely Wednesday because of the storm. At about 12:50 pm, SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll told The Times that based on weather conditions, the ferry line was canceling all service for the rest of the day Wednesday.
“It was fierce. I haven’t heard winds that strong in a long, long time,” Christine Ferrone said Wednesday morning at Little House Café in Vineyard Haven, one of the few places open during the storm. Ferrone went to Little House with her daughter after schools canceled classes. “This really caught me by surprise. I’m seeing a lot of damage.”
“It was scary. Trees were everywhere,” Little House Café employee Alesha Ramos said. Ramos said her home in Edgartown is without power, like many residences on the Island.
Little House Café had to open at 9 am rather than the usual 7 am start time, according to Ramos. The staff was only serving coffee while the kitchen was getting ready.
The storm packed sustained winds of 45 to 55 mph, and had gusts of 72 mph and more. At Chappy Ferry, there was a gust of wind recorded at 94 mph, according to a tweet by the National Weather Service.
That was likely an instantaneous gust from winds aloft, Bill Simpson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Raynham, told The Times. Sustained winds are recorded at three-second intervals, he said. Rainfall was 1.70 inches as of 8 am Wednesday.
The storm packed the kind of punch Simpson predicted. He told The Times Monday to expect a lot of downed trees and significant power outages. “We were talking about near-hurricane-force winds, and we got them,” Simpson said.
Dean Rosenthal, who lives in Edgartown, said the storm was the worst he’s seen in his time on the Island.
“I’ve lived here for 10 years, which is not a long time, but I have not seen anything like this in terms of peak gusts for winds,” Rosenthal said. “It seems like it’s a historic windstorm, at least in recent history.”
About last night: “When it’s in the middle of the night and the house is shaking, you think, ‘Slow down already.’ But we live on an Island, and that’s the weather we have here,” Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal has also heard people compare this storm to Hurricane Bob from 1991.
The pounding surf took a toll on some boats. In Vineyard Haven Harbor, the fishing vessel Grayhaven was washed to the shore, with waves crashing over it near Black Dog Tavern. Nearby, on Beach Street Extension, the powerful winds yanked a tree up by its roots, as well as some of the sidewalk bricks. Some new utility poles on Beach Road, which were recently added as part of the construction, tilted from the hurricane-force winds.
It also appeared to ground a large vessel owned by Ralph Packer in Lake Tashmoo.
“We’ve remained open; however, we’ve not received any flights today,” Martha’s Vineyard Airport director Geoff Freeman said. Freeman said the airport was intermittently on generator power throughout the day.
“Always assume a downed wire is live,” Oak Bluffs Fire Chief Nelson Wirtz said. “Always, always, always.” Chief Wirtz said Eversource is working hard to restore power in Oak Bluffs.
“We just opened up Meeting House Road,” Chilmark Fire Chief Jeremy Bradshaw said at 12:45 pm. Except for one section of North Road, Chief Bradshaw said, all major roads in Chilmark have been cleared. “John Keene was a big help for us,” he said, in regard to road clearing. He said there were no reports of major house damage yet.
West Tisbury Fire Chief Greg Pachico urged folks to be patient. He said Eversource and MassDOT are working to restore power and clear roads.
“The highway department was up early clearing the roads,”. Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty said. “The roads are pretty much clear.” Hagerty said the Chappy Ferry is not running, and that power has been restored to most places in town, but not downtown.
Chappy resident Dennis Goldin said many trees and branches are down where he lives, and he is without power. “The winds were intense,” Goldin said.
At about 1:20 pm, Tisbury Police Chief Chris Habekost reported widespread power outages remain, and trees are down all throughout town.
The Chappaquiddick fire station is open from 3 pm to 11 pm as a warming shelter and device charging station, according to a text alert from the town of Edgartown. Masks and social distancing are mandatory.
Just before 2 pm, Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake advised folks to stay at home unless there’s an emergency. He said there was debris on Beach Road between Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, and several downed trees and wires elsewhere. He asked that folks give crews the time they need to clear roads and restore power.