With Tropical Storm Elsa expected to slam into Massachusetts Friday morning, possibly bringing flooding and power outages in its wake, authorities in the state’s coastal communities urged residents to protect their homes and be safe in the water, with some beaches already announcing Friday closures.
On Nantucket early Thursday afternoon, Harbormaster Sheila Lucey’s office tweeted that swimmers at local beaches should stay safe and aware, with rip currents and swells already starting to increase before Elsa’s expected arrival.
“Cisco beach is updating its flag from GREEN [low hazard] to YELLOW [medium hazard] due to increasing rip currents,” the harbormaster tweeted. “Nobadeer & Miacomet beaches are updating from GREEN to YELLOW, due to a decrease in visibility. Madaket Beach is updating GREEN to YELLOW due to an increase in swells.”
In Plymouth, town officials said Thursday that all municipal beaches would close at 8 a.m. Friday. The town said in a statement that Plymouth is expecting more than 2 inches of rain.
“Dangerous marine conditions are also expected across coastal waters with potential for rough surf and rip currents along the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts,” the statement said, adding that the rip currents could “linger” into Saturday. ”Out of an abundance of caution, Plymouth will be closing all town beaches to the public beginning at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning, July 9. Public beaches may remain closed throughout Saturday depending on water conditions.”
The Steamship Authority, which runs ferry service to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard said, Thursday that Elsa will likely affect service Friday.
“Service is likely to be affected on the Nantucket route from mid-morning to late afternoon Friday,” the authority tweeted. “Vineyard service less likely to be affected, but some trips may cancel and Oak Bluffs service probably will be diverted to Vineyard Haven.”
The authority also addressed the issue of weather-related cancellations.
“Customers who are booked on the M/V Iyanough or for vehicle travel on a trip that is canceled due to weather will travel on standby at the next available opportunity,” the authority tweeted. “Change and cancelation fees are waived for those who wish to rebook their travel.”
In addition, the agency advised customers planning to ride the ferries Friday to check the National Weather Service Boston Twitter feed as well as the authority’s official website at http://steamshipauthority.com for updates.
In Scituate, officials implored residents to protect their homes ahead of time.
“Be aware that these tropical systems can bring isolated strong thunderstorms at any time during transit,” the town said in a statement Wednesday, as forecasters began sounding alarms on Tropical Storm Elsa. “Please secure your deck furniture, grills, & any other equipment you have outside your home that could become airborne.”
Power outages are also possible, town officials said.
“If generators are needed, make sure you have good fuel & be sure to keep the exhaust away from your home, especially windows, to reduce the potential for carbon monoxide issues,” the statement said.
Scituate Fire Chief John P. Murphy said via e-mail Thursday afternoon that not much had changed since the Wednesday advisory was issued.
“We typically do ok with the southeast winds, it’s the north east winds that significantly impact our area,” Murphy wrote. “The high tide is at noon tomorrow [and is] anticipated to coincide with peak impacts but with the SE winds and a nominal high tide we don’t anticipate any significant coastal flooding.”
He said any flash flooding that does arise will likely be street flooding if the town sees any “heavy squalls” in a short period of time.
“The fire department will have extra personnel on duty during this storm,” Murphy wrote. “The maximum wind gusts will determine if we have any power outages. We are prepared and expecting impacts closer to a moderate nor’easter, but fortunately for us the winds are forecast to be primarily from the southeast.”
In Cohasset, local police tweeted Thursday that public safety officials met in the morning to discuss plans for what could be 24 to 36 hours of stormy weather.
“We expect high winds and heavy rain from #elsahurricane tomorrow and some severe/strong t-storms today & tonight. Expect trees down and possible power outages. Charge your phones & devices,” Cohasset police tweeted.
In Randolph, Local 1268, the union for town firefighters, warned of heavy rain forecast for Friday and also urged residents to check their sump pumps.
“Consider checking, servicing and/or replacing your sump pump,” the union tweeted Thursday.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is also monitoring the situation closely.
Via Twitter Thursday, MEMA urged residents to “[e]levate items stored in the basement and other low-lying, flood prone areas of homes and businesses to minimize damage from flooding” and to check that sump pumps are properly functioning.
In a prelude to Elsa, strong thunderstorms were forecast to move through Western and Central Masachusetts Thursday afternoon, with the possibility of an isolated tornado. Elsa is then expected to arrive late Thursday night. It also could spawn tornados..
The storm could pick up steam Thursday night, MEMA said in a situational awareness statement.
“Some re-strengthening is possible tonight and Friday while the system moves close to the northeastern United States,” the agency said. “Elsa is forecast to become a Post-tropical Cyclone Friday night or Saturday.”
According to MEMA, power outages and flash flooding are among the primary concerns.
“Damaging winds and power outages are possible,” MEMA said. “An increase in surf and rip currents along south coastal areas but, no coastal or storm surge flooding is expected.” The agency added that Elsa is “expected to be a fast-moving storm” clearing out of Massachusetts by Friday evening.
Material from prior Globe stories was used in this report.