As Hurricane Lee barrels toward New England, boaters and communities on Cape Cod took cover, scrambling to keep ahead of the Category 2 storm that prompted forecasters to issue tropical storm warnings for Massachusetts and a hurricane watch for coastal Maine.
The Cape and Nantucket, along with other portions of southeastern Massachusetts, have the potential for “life-threatening storm surge flooding” on Friday and Saturday, the National Hurricane Center said Wednesday evening.
Mark Wiatrowski, who took his boat out of Hyannis Inner Harbor on Wednesday morning, said he had never seen so many people removing their boats from the water at once.
“It normally doesn’t happen like that, as a barrage,” Wiatrowski said. “Everyone’s pulling.”
He said the line of cars on the ramp where boats came out of the water had overflowed down the street, and the mood among boat owners was one of grim determination. On the water, boaters took down sails and canvas covers to get rid of anything that might cause their ships to blow away.
Wiatrowski had planned to take his boat out of the water later this month, but continued advisory from city and harbor officials stating “when in doubt, haul it out” swayed him to pull his boat early. Now, he said, he’s happy he got it done.
“A storm can be exciting,” he said. “Let’s just hope it’s not what it has the potential to be.”
Severe weather continued to pound Massachusetts Wednesday, one day after Governor Maura Healey declared a state of emergency after nearly 10 inches of rain fell on parts of the state.
Tornado warnings were in effect for parts of southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but the threat expired at 6:30 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.
Leominster, where roads collapsed and home foundations crumbled amid the floods, received more rain Wednesday, but no additional flooding, according to the National Weather Service.
“The ground is saturated. It can’t take in any more,” Leominster Mayor Dean Mazzarella said at a news conference Wednesday. But he said the city had emergency resources at the ready “for whatever the weather brings.”
The tropical storm watch covers a large area of coastal New England from Watch Hill, Rhode Island, to Stonington, Maine, including Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. Additionally, a storm surge watch has been issued for Cape Cod Bay and Nantucket.
A hurricane watch has been issued for portions of down-east Maine from Stonington to the US-Canada border, the hurricane center said.
Tropical storm-force winds are forecast to hit the South Coast of Massachusetts sometime between 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday morning, bringing heavy rainfall, gusty winds, and an increased risk of rip currents, especially on south-facing beaches, according to Bill Leatham, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Norton.
Residents and officials on the Cape were keeping a close eye on the march northward, with safety preparations underway.
Elizabeth York, the executive director of the Cape Cod Maritime Museum in Hyannis, said she and her staff have been moving precious archives and materials upstairs from the museum’s basement-level storage area. York said one of the museum’s boats will likely be removed from the water, too, and the museum will cancel admissions on Saturday.
While these measures are being taken earlier than expected, York said everyone seemed calm and collected.
“I think people are just taking it in stride and doing what we can to be efficient,” she said. “I don’t see a sense of panic. I think we’re used to being responsive when storms come up like this.”
Local officials are also encouraging residents — especially boaters — to take precautions. A storm surge warning is in effect for Cape Cod Bay and Nantucket, where water could reach two to four feet above normal, the hurricane center said Wednesday night.
In Dennis, emergency management officials held a conference call Tuesday with other local agencies to strategize around storm preparations, according to town Harbormaster Dawson Farber.
“We’ve notified mooring permit holders and slip holders, boat owners down here in Dennis, just to pay close attention to media sources for weather updates and to start thinking about dusting off any emergency plans that they may have sitting around for dealing with their boat,” Farber said.
Dennis officials also encouraged boaters to check their dock lines or mooring lines and consider supplementing them with extra protection, Farber said.
“We’re obviously keeping our fingers crossed that this will make a hard right turn and head out to the middle of the Atlantic, but we’ll be prepared in the event that it does not go that way,” he said.
In Harwich, boaters at the town marina and in public mooring fields have been asked to monitor the weather and make sure their vessels are secured, or consider removing them from the water, according to Harbormaster John Rendon.
“We’re just trying to give them enough notice to make sure that they’re paying attention to the weather and doing what needs to be done . . . before the weather gets here,” Rendon said.
By Tuesday, Rendon’s office was already receiving multiple calls from boaters seeking assistance and had towed one vessel and helped other boaters anchored in the mooring fields to find docking space in the marina, he said.
In Nantucket, the harbormaster on Tuesday asked residents to “remove all dinghies from the dinghy docks before Friday” and said officials would secure the brow that day.
The Orleans harbormaster issued a notice Monday advising “all mariners to ensure that you have a definitive storm refuge plan in place for your boat.”
“Boats that can be trailered should be hauled well ahead of the storm to avoid the last-minute rush at local boat ramps,” the harbormaster’s office said in a statement. “For those who intend to keep your boat on your current mooring, it is imperative that you verify that the mooring hawser, chain and chaffing gear are all in good working condition.”
Don German, the Provincetown harbormaster, said he had also issued an alert to residents “explaining that while it’s still too early to determine the exact track of the storm, it’s not too early to begin planning for how you would remove your boat from the harbor if it became necessary.”
“We’re asking people to think about, are their boat trailers serviceable?” German said. “Are they going to need help to get out? If so, have they lined that up, and are they available? Is there fuel on their boat so they can get from the mooring to the ramp? Simple things that sometimes we may not think about when a storm is coming.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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