Falmouth May Be Spared, as Hurricane Earl Heads East
By: Enterprise Staff
This morning, Hurricane Earl was at Category 2 storm brewing 450 miles south of Nantucket. Hurricane force winds forecast for up to 70 miles from the storm center are expected to weaken as the storm approaches Cape Cod and the Islands. Between two and six inches of rain are expected to fall on southeastern Massachusetts.
Falmouth, however, will probably be spared the worst of it. Meteorologists are forecasting that the storm will pass east of Nantucket, which should minimize wind damage and flooding, said retired meteorologist Richard S. (Doc) Taylor of Menauhant.
“There probably won’t be any storm surge,” said Mr. Taylor, explaining that waters will rise to the east of the storm, which will be in the Atlantic Ocean.
Winds will initially come from the east, then the northeast, then the north, as Hurricane Earl passes Cape Cod, Mr. Taylor said.
Massachusetts Governor Deval L. Patrick declared a state of emergency in the entire commonwealth yesterday at 3:25 PM, as did President Barack Obama this morning. The declarations will qualify the state for disaster compensation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Here in Falmouth, town officials opened the emergency operations command center this morning, and will open the emergency shelter at Mullen-Hall School this afternoon. Falmouth Town Hall will remain open during normal business hours.
Falmouth police will add all necessary staff during the storm, which are expected to hit at night when most people are not on the roads, Captain Stephen M. O’Neil said.
Falmouth Fire Rescue will also likely add an additional 10 firefighters at 6 o’clock tonight, through the storm and its aftermath.
Falmouth Tree Warden Brian J. Dale said he would have four emergency crews working tonight, based at the Falmouth Fire Rescue station, and will have 30 workers beginning tomorrow to clear trees and tree limbs.
“This is what we do and this is what we prepare for,” Mr. Dale said.
NStar has hired hundreds of electrical line workers from as far away as Ohio and Wisconsin to repair damage expected to be caused by Hurricane Earl. Many of the crews set to join the repair effort were to meet up with NStar workers at the Cape Cod Mall this morning at 10.
NStar spokesman Michael P. Durand said the company hired the outside contractors to help restore power to the entire region as quickly as possible after the storm.
At the US Coast Guard Southeastern New England Command Center in Woods Hole and Air Station Cape Cod, staff, boats, and aircraft are on standby to respond to pollution or search and rescue incidents, said Lieutenant Matthew R. Anderson.
As of press time, the forecast storm surge did not present a threat to the vessels located at the Woods Hole Station, said Lt. Anderson. Should conditions worsen, Coast Guard crews will move the boats behind the hurricane barrier at New Bedford Harbor, from where search and rescue operations in the area may be launched.
Falmouth Hospital was to open its incident command center at noon today, to implement emergency procedures and monitor storm operations. The hospital has at least a three-day supply of food on hand and ample water supply, said spokesman Robin Lord.
Scheduled surgeries and procedures will take place today, although there will be no outpatient services after noon, she said.
Messing about in boats
Most Falmouth residents pulled their own boats out of the water in the days preceding Hurricane Earl, but there were still two dozen boats in Falmouth Inner Harbor as of yesterday afternoon.
Assistant Harbor Master Robert W. Griffin Jr. said some boat owners may have waited to the last minute to get their boats out, which could lead to a bottleneck at boat ramps today.
The Eel Pond drawbridge in Woods Hole will open for the last time before the storm at 2 PM today, Mr. Griffin said.
The Harbor Master’s Office had already removed all its boats, except one, from the water as of 4 PM yesterday. The only remaining boat is the main patrol boat, which was to be taken out this morning.
“We’ve been supervising the ramps during the day and we’ve only had one incident.” Mr. Griffin said a boat owner at the Childs River ramp near Edward’s Boatyard got too far off to the side of the ramp and his boat fell off its trailer.
Mr. Griffin participated in a town hurricane preparedness tabletop exercise last week, which helped him get ready for this situation. Still, he said the town got a bit of a late start on preparing for the storm, because of weather predictions.
“The storm was predicted to go southeast of Nantucket, but now it looks like its getting closer,” Mr. Griffin said. “I think we’ll be okay.”
Private boatyards worked to pull as many boats out of the water in anticipation of the storm.
“We are in what we call emergency haul mode,” said Tim M. Shields, director of customer service at MacDougalls’ Cape Cod Marine Services on Falmouth Harbor yesterday.”We’re taking out as many boats as we are physically able to.”
He said the 60 employees have been working since Wednesday morning to get as many boats out as possible before the storm.
They start with the largest yachts, he said, because the smaller boats can move around in the high winds without being damaged. The biggest boat pulled out of the water was an 80-foot Hatteras motor yacht, he said.
“We’re very familiar with hurricanes. The boatyard has been around since 1938,” he said.
Another boatyard operator, Charles A. Swain of Edward’s Boatyard in Waquoit, remembered the hurricane of 1954, when a storm surge put water a foot deep in the offices. His grandparents owned the business at the time, he said.
The biggest boats will be tied to the fixed docks and checked regularly, he said.
'Measured response' from science institutions
None of the ships owned by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are currently in port, said Ernest G. Charette, WHOI’s director of facilities. The R/V Atlantis is making its way back from San Diego, California, and is expected back in Woods Hole on September 5, just after Hurricane Earl, he said.
Current forecasts from the National Weather Service and other weather prediction services used by the institution have not triggered a full hurricane response, said Mr. Charette. Therefore, WHOI’s smaller vessels will remain in port with secure lines. And while he was busy boarding up windows, sandbagging doors, and moving equipment during Hurricane Bob, the insitution is taking a more “measured response” in advance of the incoming storm.
Noting that many scientists and students at WHOI have never experienced a hurricane, Mr. Charette said WHOI administration sent out updates on hurricane preparedness over the week to all personnel.
“Obviously the safety of employees, guests, and students is paramount. We’re prepared for tropical storm winds, hurricane-force gusts, and heavy rain,” he said.
The Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole will not have to move any hazardous materials from its ground floor to avoid flooding. All chemical waste was removed in advance of the storm.
“MBL has been around for a long time and we’ve been through the biggest hurricanes and this isn’t supposed to be the biggest,” said James J. Marcello, environmental health and safety manager for MBL.
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