Lee brings mellow Saturday storm

Aside from some wind, a handful of outages, and big waves, the once massive hurricane skirted past the Island.


Updated September 19

Despite the buildup to the storm, Tropical Storm Lee was relatively mild for Martha’s Vineyard.

Lee, which has been demoted from a hurricane to a post-tropical cyclone by the National Hurricane Center on Saturday at 5 am, brought the Island light rain, strong waves, and some wind that scattered leaves and took down tree branches Friday night into Saturday morning. The Vineyard Transit Authority ran buses, and some shops, like Tony’s Market in Oak Bluffs, remained open. 

Lee did impact travel. Steamship Authority spokesperson Sean Driscoll told The Times that the last ferries to run on Friday were at 7:30 pm. On Saturday, numerous Vineyard route trips were canceled between 7 am and 5:20 pm, due to weather conditions or trip consolidations, although some ferries still made scheduled passages. Multiple trips from Oak Bluffs were diverted to Vineyard Haven.

“I just expected it to be a little more intense than it was,” Tate Hakola, who was visiting the Island from northern Michigan, said.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), Lee brought the Island “a northwest wind 29 to 34 mph, decreasing to 23 to 28 mph in the afternoon,” alongside wind gusts up to 50 mph. By Saturday night, the weather had gradually cleared, and winds mellowed to 13 to 16 mph, with gusts up to 34 mph. Sunday was a sunny day, with a westward wind of 10 mph.

“I just thought it was going to be a lot more rainy,” said Ashley Beckford of Vineyard’s Best Ice Cream & Coffee in Oak Bluffs. When asked if Lee met her expectations, Beckford replied, “No, but that’s a good thing, you know?” 

Beckford said she hadn’t seen significant impact from Lee besides a few branches and more leaves than usual littering the ground.  

Dukes County was under a tropical storm warning during the weekend, according to the NWS. It was also under a coastal flood advisory until 2 pm on Saturday, and a high surf advisory until 8 am on Sunday. 

While the waters were rougher than usual over the weekend, there was little trouble for the Vineyard’s harbors. 

“We had three and a half days of prep work for this storm,” Tisbury harbormaster John Crocker told The Times on Monday. Crocker said the only problem he was aware of was a small sailboat in Lake Tashmoo that took on lots of water, although the vessel was still floating, and the owner was notified.

Chilmark harbormaster Ryan Rossi said the storm was “pretty uneventful,” crediting the preparation that took place beforehand. “We dodged a bullet on this one,” he said, pointing out the eastward trajectory the storm took. 

Aquinnah harbormaster and shellfish constable Brian (“Chip”) Vanderhoop told The Times there was no damage to vessels, but there was erosion from the storm. He said the strong winds and storm surges during storms like nor’easters and hurricanes take sand from dunes and spread it around, particularly on the Island’s southern coastline. 

Vanderhoop also said the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries announced a shellfishing closure on the state’s coastlines, starting on Friday evening through the weekend, because of the storm. Vanderhoop said shellfishing was reopened on Sunday morning at sunrise.

According to an 8:30 am status update from Eversource on Saturday, Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and the South Shore faced the greatest chance for potential damages. 

Unlike the Cape, where thousands of customers in the region experienced power outages on Saturday, Eversource’s online map showed Martha’s Vineyard experiencing sporadic power outages that affected fewer than five people at a time. Two outages occurred in Edgartown at 6:59 am, near Planting Field Way and Shurtleff Way, and in the downtown area at 10:06 am. Two outages occurred in Oak Bluffs near County Road at 7:50 am and near Wing Road at 7:54 am, the latter of which was caused by fallen tree limbs. In the up-Island area, one outage occurred in Menemsha near North Road, and another in West Tisbury near Tisbury Lane West. Eversource brought 20 line crews and five tree crews to the Island in preparation for the storm.

“We were well-prepared for any potential storm-related damage starting Friday, and remain ready to respond to any reported outages today,” Eversource spokesperson Chris McKinnon said on Saturday. “We have been responding to scattered power outages on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, caused primarily by tree limbs coming down onto power lines. We anticipate gusty conditions through this afternoon, and have line and tree crews on Martha’s Vineyard ready to respond if necessary. Since the start of the storm, we have restored [power to] approximately 11,000 customers in Eastern Massachusetts.”

McKinnon told The Times on Tuesday morning that Eversource crews restored power to 157 customers on Martha’s Vineyard affected by storm-related damage. 

Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced on Saturday that federal disaster assistance has been made available to Massachusetts to supplement response efforts. FEMA is specifically authorized to “identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency,” according to a release. 

One state trooper in Edgartown told The Times some police departments brought on extra officers to deal with storm-related calls after Gov. Maura Healey declared a state of emergency.

State officials weren’t the only ones who took precautions. Scott Larsen of Larsen’s Fish Market in Menemsha was prepared for trouble ahead of Lee. 

“We just tied down our trash barrels, brought in our paper recycling, and pretty much brought everything in that would’ve blown around outside,” Larsen said, adding he found it challenging to predict precisely what was coming. “We weren’t sure what to expect because it was so big, and moving so slowly — it could’ve changed at any moment. We were just prepared for a big blow.”

Though Larsen was ready for the storm, he said things weren’t as bad as they could have been. “It turned out pretty mild, actually. Just seems like a big storm instead of a hurricane.” 

Larsen also said his market and the area surrounding the harbor were undamaged. “Actually, everybody prepared pretty well. Boats are tied up pretty properly,” said Larsen. “There’s some stuff floating around on the dock, because the tides came over the dock, and it’s actually just receded — it didn’t go off into the harbor because it wasn’t that high up.”

Larsen added that the impacts felt from Lee don’t compare with some other hurricanes in his memory: “The worst I remember was when I was little: Hurricane Bob was pretty bad. And Sandy was the last big one I remember from around here. Sandy was pretty rough, but Bob was the one that did the most damage …”

Monday’s rain storm brought much more rain than Saturday. National Weather Service reported 2.6 inches of rain in West Tisbury.

Daniel Greenman contributed to this story.


  1. I don’t believe there were wind gust over 54 mph as you reported. NWS gets it’s wind reports from uncalibrated amateur weather stations scattered throughout our area. The only calibrated anemometer is at the airport. My highest reading was 34 mph.

    • Agreed. The NWS station at the airport showed no gusts over 40 mph. Same goes for the Buzzard’s Bay tower which is in exposed, open water.
      Too much hype over this storm that was mild compared some we see in winter.

  2. Do you believe that wind gust speeds can vary by as much as 20 mph within the boundaries of the airport?
    Do you believe that amateur weather stations are out of calibration by 20 MPH?
    Do you believe the calibrated anemometer at WHOI?

    • I believe the anemometer that’s south of Katama, and part of the MVCO facility built and maintained by the WHOI. Not a single gust over 40 knots. Which is 46 mph.
      Go look at the web page.

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