scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Arthur douses, but does little damage

Some of the heaviest rain in the state hit the New Bedford area Friday.Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Hurricane Arthur passed by the Massachusetts coast on Friday, creating a soggy July Fourth for many who endured heavy rains and flooding, especially in the southeastern region, but causing no major damage.

As the storm continued into the night, Nantucket experienced flooding and high winds. Minor flooding forced road closures in Boston and some communities south of the city. Heavy rain fell in New Bedford, where 8 inches of rain caused flooding on Route 6.

"I've been in this house 26 years. This is the first time I've ever seen my street flooded like this," said Maria Fumo, 64, a resident of Adams Street in Fairhaven, just across the Acushnet River from New Bedford. "My backyard, oh my God! I had to go outside, I couldn't believe it. It's like quicksand."


With little damage reported, the unusual July hurricane turned out to be more annoying than dangerous. It managed to wash out patriotic celebrations and dampen traditional picnics across the eastern part of the state. Fireworks displays and parades were canceled, and usually busy landmarks like Boston Common were bereft of tourists as the rain came down in sheets.

The eye of the storm came closest to Massachusetts at about 9 p.m., about 50 to 70 miles southeast of Nantucket. Winds gusted up to 63 miles per hour over Nantucket, said Bill Simpson, a National Weather Service meteorologist. But even with the winds, the rain, and the flash flooding, "we'll wake up and see blue skies tomorrow morning," Simpson said.

As of 2 a.m. Saturday, the storm was moving northeast at 31 mph, according to the weather service, with maximum sustained winds near 75 mph. A tropical storm warning remained in effect for Nantucket and portions of Cape Cod.

By late Friday, flood waters had begun to recede in New Bedford and Fairhaven, as the stormed moved to northeast. By Saturday morning, Arthur was expected to be near Nova Scotia as a tropical storm, Simpson said.


During the height of the storm Friday, numerous roads in Southeastern Massachusetts were flooded and impassable by the afternoon, some with more than a foot of water, according to reports collected by the Weather Service. Most reports came from New Bedford, but flooding was also reported in Westport, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Freetown, Wareham, and Plymouth.

Robert J. Espindola, chairman of the Board of Selectmen in Fairhaven, said the heaviest rain in town came at about 4 p.m., when six inches accumulated on some streets.

"It did get quite bad for a period of time," he said. "There was substantial flooding."

In New Bedford, roads were closed in low-lying areas that are frequently shut down by flooding, including Route 18 and Belleville Road, according to Officer Mark Bento, of the city Police Department.

He said the heavy rain had not been that bad.

"It's average, now that the rain has let up," Bento said Friday afternoon. "If it starts coming down in buckets, we'll see."

Parker Lippitt, 2, took dad Andy Lippitt on a puddle-jumping tour of Charlestown to make the most of stormy weather.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Leonard Abreu, 69, echoed Bento's comments, saying that most streets were relatively clear of flooding, though he did see some trouble spots.

"I saw SUVs going by, doing about 30 miles per hour, and they were shooting waves up 30 feet in the air," Abreu said. "They look like jet skis going by."

As the roads flooded, so too did yards and basements. New Bedford firefighters helped pump water from 60 flooded basements during the course of the evening, a department dispatcher said.


Despite the flooding, State Police reported "nothing too serious or dramatic." High water temporarily closed the tunnel from Leverett Circle to I-93, but the tunnel was reopened by the evening.

Heavy rain began to hit Nantucket around 6:30 or 7 p.m. and continued throughout the evening. Dave Franzuto, emergency management coordinator, said officials were prepared for possible flooding.

"Sandbags are deployed, floodgates are closed, we're monitoring low-lying areas," he said.

After the rain began to fall heavily around 9 p.m., Broad and Easy streets flooded, and an officer reported 20-inch deep water at the Whaling Museum downtown, said Lieutenant Jerry Adams of the Nantucket Police Department.

Though many people on the island reported water in their basements and some boats were beached, Adams said the storm was manageable.

"We've seen storms like this before," he said.

Ferries leaving the island were canceled, so the Red Cross and Nantucket Emergency Services opened an emergency shelter at Nantucket High School to accommodate anyone who was stranded. But by 9:30 p.m., only one family was there.

As of 12:35 a.m., about 1,900 National Grid customers in Massachusetts were without power, with more than 1,400 in Middlesex County, the utility said on its website.

NSTAR reported 8,451 outages in the state at that time, with about 7,500 of them on the Cape, according to its website.

The Cape had few issues with flooding, said Matt Doody, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service.


"There might have been some pockets where drainage was bad, but nothing significant," he said.

Antonio Da Silva, 84, and his son had filled tanks with water seeping from their basement’s sewage pipes in New Bedford on Friday.Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Forecasters said they were not overly concerned with coastal flooding because Arthur will be pulling away from the coast quickly and tides will be relatively low. But they warned that erosion is possible on the east and south shores of Nantucket as well as the ocean side of Cape Cod.

And rip currents could remain a sneaky hazard, possibly through the weekend, Weather Service meteorologist Rebecca Gould said.

Beachgoers should beware of deceptively safe-looking water when they venture out Saturday after the weather improves, Gould said, because it still might be concealing rip currents.

The storm continued to affect July Fourth celebrations Friday, one day after adverse weather forced the Boston Pops to cancel their cherished, live rendition of the "1812 Overture" during the annual fireworks display on the Charles River Esplanade, which was held a day early, on July 3.

Parades and fireworks were canceled or postponed Friday in several communities including Boston, Plymouth, Centerville, Natick, Falmouth, Newton, Fall River, Marblehead, Lawrence, and Salem.

"We're postponing because the insurance company that insures the barge and the tug will not insure them if they make the trip down the coast," said Ken Tavares, president of July 4 Plymouth Inc., which organizes the festivities in that town. "The waters will be too rough to bring them down."

But some areas were soldiering on with their events, including Hyannis, which held its annual boat parade as scheduled Friday afternoon, despite the wet conditions and the fact that dozens of vessels had pulled out of the procession.


"The media has so overhyped this storm," Carla Sullivan, Hyannis Marina's dockmaster said early Friday. "We're going to get a storm just like any other kind of storm."

In Boston, the weather kept many tourists away from the normally crowded Common, which was nearly empty Friday afternoon.

A couple from Denver huddled with two young children under an awning across from Park Street station, seeking a reprieve from the rain.

Evan Allen and Martin Finucane of the Globe Staff, and Globe correspondents Jennifer Smith, Kiera Blessing, and Melissa Hanson contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.