Words won’t save us from the next storm surge 


State and local officials have been treading water for too long on how to handle increasingly frequent and destructive flooding at Five Corners in Vineyard Haven. 

And it’s hard not to feel like time is running out, as the water keeps rising, and tidal surges keep washing up at the doors of area businesses, including Stop & Shop, the Black Dog Bakery, and right here at The Martha’s Vineyard Times. 

So, yes, this issue hits very close to home. On Jan. 10, our building at 30 Beach Road took on several inches of water. Reporters were left sloshing through the newsroom in rubber boots, and the water damage compromised some of our computers. We spent thousands of dollars and quite a bit of personal elbow grease on cleaning up the mess, all while fully realizing it is only a matter of time before the next storm floods Beach Road, which is a state-administered road, once again.

So where are our state officials on helping the Island mitigate this problem on Beach Road? There is an ongoing study by the state Department of Transportation that started in earnest last summer, and is supposed to issue a report this spring. Back on Oct. 2, the state DOT project manager, Patrick Snyder, appeared at a virtual public meeting for 51 minutes and 26 seconds of “talk about further discussions.” Then there was another virtual public hearing Dec. 6.

Here’s what Snyder had to say back in October: “We’ve asked you here today to discuss the conceptual planning study. This is an important intersection, and MassDOT is excited to be part of this study looking at climate change mitigation in the area … This will inform our future work on this study.” 

Conceptual planning? OK, but meanwhile the threat of more flooding looms, and so far we are getting just a steady wave of words. So it is understandable that some business owners at Five Corners are concerned and growing frustrated.

Teresa Kruszewski, the owner of 51art Gallery, watched last month as the water rose right up to the doorstep of her gallery, and she reacted by sounding the alarm and calling together a meeting of area business owners, who flocked to the Feb. 13 Vineyard Haven Business Association (VHBA) meeting. 

Kruszewski has dutifully attended Massachusetts Department of Transportation meetings on the intersection, but she told The Times the agency does not seem to understand the severity of the flooding. That’s why, she said, business owners needed to make their voices heard. “What I’ve taken from the conversations is there have been a lot of studies,” Kruszewski said, adding that no real plans had been implemented.

A practical approach, Kruszewski said, is for there to be more routine cleaning of storm drains at Five Corners and storm gutters on Beach Road. She added that the businesses are anxious for some kind of concrete next steps, and concerned about what will happen with the current state of inertia. 

“They were all interested in not what’s being talked about and researched — for years, I think — but what is actually going on … And what are some of the things that we can do immediately to start mitigating the physical issues that we’re dealing with,” she said.

The state DOT, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, and several Island and town agencies have been holding meetings and hosting lots of dialogue, but from the point of view of the businesses on Beach Road, nothing seems to be getting done. 

We applaud the efforts to evaluate the problem, we support the urgency that Kruszewski brings to the discussion, and we believe government officials, particularly from the state DOT, need to step up now and take real action.

Vineyard Haven business owners are trying to present a unified front in pushing for improvements at the notorious five-way intersection, and we support that as well.

Around a dozen business owners attended the VHBA meeting on Feb. 13, and discussed opportunities to represent their interests, as well as pending efforts to combat flooding.

Some attendees said that they are losing customers when storm surge reaches their storefront doors, and they are frustrated by a lack of action from government agencies that have studied the area for years.

Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard owner Phil Hale, who had to send employees home during the last big storm, showed up armed with binders of studies on Five Corners flooding, which he used to argue that the time had come for action. 

Hale added that his business is considering moving inward over time, as sea level rises: “As a business, we’re actively looking — ‘Where can we go?’ — Because I can’t continue to send people home.”

The meeting was also attended by Ben Robinson of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC), who updated business owners on town, commission, and state efforts to address Five Corners. He stated that the MVC has applied for a $700,000 Island-wide resiliency grant to study planning opportunities at Vineyard Haven Harbor, Menemsha Harbor, and the road from Edgartown to Oak Bluffs along State Beach. The idea for the grant is to build an actionable framework for these three areas that can also be adapted for other vulnerable spots on-Island. If the grant succeeds, work will begin in October, he said. Candidly, it cannot get started soon enough. 


  1. i’m sorry, but we can do whatever we want to 5 corners
    and that won’t make a rat’s behind of difference for the
    51 art gallery or the Times building, or any other building
    in the area. Come on — let’s take a look at reality.
    Does anyone really think putting a pump
    in 5 corners or cleaning the drains that are below flood tide
    is going to do anything ?
    just to address the drains— if the drains are clear, sea water
    will have an easier time getting into the roadway at 5 corners.
    gravity matters– sea level will go to it’s level.
    But to give credit where credit is due, I know that the Tisbury
    public works department is down there cleaning them out before
    every storm. Thank you Kirk Metell.
    i don’t get the point of this article– if 5 corners continually
    floods, all the properties around it continually flood.
    That’s the reality- Wishing the state should
    or shouldn’t throw money at “5 corners” is naive and/or disingenuous.
    We have a global problem that we have caused–
    Sorry if some businesses and homes are going to be underwater
    in the next few decades. We all had the opportunity to mitigate this
    problem over the last few decades, but we have chosen to do nothing.
    It has only gotten worse.
    If there were even one metric of success, I would be a little
    We have chosen to take the path of convenience–
    And that is a dead end.

      • John We could have went with ev’s in the 1990’s
        you know the story.
        We could have increased the CAFE standards.
        We could have invested money in alt energy
        research and development decades ago.
        We could have required stricter pollution standards
        decades ago.
        We could have put a carbon tax on fossil fuels.
        we could have striven for more energy efficient
        appliances and light bulbs.
        Instead, we fed at the troth of international
        corporate greed, and bought into the lies they
        told us. We had opportunity after opportunity,
        but we chose to take the convenient route,and
        live the convenient lives of the slobs
        we are. At this point it is clear that we have chosen
        to leave this problem to our
        descendants. Unfortunately,or perhaps fortunately
        this is all catching up with us sooner than the scientists
        were telling us
        it would 30 years ago. We are feeling it NOW, John.
        And I have some bad news for you and your ilk–
        It’s not gonna get better.

        • Don,
          Your wonderful sentiments aside, the math underpinning them doesn’t add up for influencing climate (or the tides) a sot. And I am curious, nonetheless, about precisely to whom you refer when you write “we.”

          • John– yeah, the scale of the problem is staggering
            and the few examples I cited won’t do squat. At
            least if they are implemented in the U.S only.
            The “we” part is all of us– the entire global
            population. It would be nice if my wonderful
            sentiments could be implemented, but I am aware of
            reality. As long as we ,as a species ,put a higher priority
            on killing people we don’t like than protecting
            future generations from extinction, we will cook
            our planet.
            I fully understand the futility of trying to save life
            on this planet, given the ignorance and greed of those
            who deny the issue.
            Unfortunately, the only way this will get any better is
            when climatic conditions kill off billions of us, and the
            remaining billion or so recognize the true depth of
            the crisis.

  2. I will not bore you with another account of working in the Water Street Black Dog Bakery in fishing boots, though, will mention again that this problem has existed since the 1970s. Each time the road was resurfaced, the flooding in the bakery got worse. Was the area previously swamp which was filled? How much money has been wasted on studies without any action? Are there any logical proposals concerning flood mitigation? Would a tide mitigation wall, like the one for the new docks before the drawbridge, be an idea which would help temporarily? Or culverts between the harbor, outer harbor and the lagoon, so the water could go under the road into the other water? Or all the buildings up on stilts, and the road a causeway? It could add to the charm of Vineyard Haven to shop by boat, row up under the building, then the boat is belly lifted into a portal, and the occupants are ushered in to obtain their goods?

  3. A pump, minimum 500 gallons per minute, set in the line that feeds to the ocean will work. One major part is apparently missing at this time. A “Clapper valve” has to be installed. This will keep sea water from coming in, and will only open, under the pressure of the pump. The pump should be, “float” activated, like a sump pump.

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