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Hermine hits with wind gusts, dangerous currents

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Taking advantage of Nahant Beach’s waves on Labor Day morning were Nels Nelson of Somerville and Odette Bakker, visiting from the Netherlands.Dina Rudick

As Hermine's heavy winds and strong seas shook southern New England on Monday, ferries were canceled, swimmers urged to get out of the water, and tropical storm warnings remained in place for the Cape and Islands into the evening, according to the National Weather Service.

Sustained winds had reached 39 miles per hour on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket by early afternoon, according to the weather service, hitting the threshold for tropical storm force. Wind gusts of 58 miles per hour were recorded at 11:23 a.m. on Nantucket, 59 miles per hour on Aquinnah at 3:52 p.m., and 53 miles per hour in Edgartown at 1:02 p.m. and Falmouth at 4:19 p.m., according to the National Weather Service in Taunton.


The weather service said in an advisory that storm-force winds would continue into the early evening before weakening overnight into Tuesday.

Nationwide, the storm caused three deaths, inflicted widespread property damage, and knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people from Florida to Virginia, the Associated Press reported.

As Monday night wound down in Massachusetts, the storm hovered about 120 miles south of Nantucket, moving west, according to the weather service. Rain pummeled the Cape and Islands, and about 1 to 2 inches was expected to fall through Wednesday.

The weather service said at about 10:20 p.m. Monday that there would be periods of wind and rain into Wednesday, mainly along the south coast, with warm and humid conditions following the storm on Thursday and Friday.

Sustained winds of about 15 to 20 miles per hour blew throughout the day Monday.

The weather service reported gusts late Monday night in Eastern Massachusetts and the Cape ranging from 22 to 38 miles per hour, and said high winds would gradually diminish overnight.

The biggest worry for storm watchers: people venturing into the waves. The storm generated large waves and life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, which were expected to last through Wednesday.


"We see on webcams, people out on the water," said Glenn Field, warning coordination meteorologist at the weather service. "That's not a good thing to do, even though it's tempting." But by Monday evening, it appeared that most had heeded the warning to stay dry, and no drownings or injuries were reported.

On Nahant Beach Monday, the strong winds made riding the waves difficult, according to two surfers who nonetheless were in the water Monday morning.

"This is bigger surf than normal, but this is also the beginning of fall, which brings bigger surf anyway," said Nels Nelson of Somerville, who had come out with Odette Bakker, who was visiting from the Netherlands. "The reason you don't see many surfers out here today is because it's very windy and blowing in the wrong direction — it's blowing toward the shore — and it makes the waves really mushy."

The storm scrambled travel plans for vacationers visiting the islands. Ferries canceled trips from Cape Cod to Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard, citing the wind and rough currents. Hy-Line Cruises cancelled all its ferries all day. The Steamship Authority suspended service to Nantucket and continued ferries to the Vineyard on a trip-by-trip basis. Travelers were advised to check the Steamship Authority's website for updates.

Hotels on Nantucket reported cancellations from people not yet on the island — and extensions in stays from those who were stuck.


"With a storm like this, for the past two days most of the ferries have been cancelled," said Sarah Puza, innkeeper at the Union Street Inn, who said that nevertheless, people were in good spirits. "I think everybody's dealing with it pretty well. Pretty optimistic about it."

The FlightAware website, which tracks flight cancellations and delays, showed just 30 cancellations at Logan Airport and 39 delays by about 5 p.m. Monday. Logan reported one canceled departure on its website later Monday night: a Cape Air flight to Nantucket that had been scheduled to take off at 8:35 p.m.

"Because weather can impact flights at the departure airport or the arrival airport, some weather delays are likely," said Matthew Brelis, a spokesman for Massport. "People heading to Logan are advised to contact the airline to check on flight status before heading to the airport."

By Monday evening, damage from the storm was minimal, affecting mainly Eastern Massachusetts and Cape Cod.

At around 9:30 p.m., downed trees, branches, power lines, and light poles were reported in several communities including Chatham, Edgartown, New Bedford, Falmouth, Acushnet, Marion, Hopkinton, Fairhaven, Brewster, Mattapoisett, Hingham, East Sandwich, Tisbury, Dartmouth, Wareham, and Sandwich.

Several small boats were reported sunk or dragging anchor in Nantucket Harbor.

A tree fell on a garage in Weymouth, according to weather service reports.

Field said a major concern with Hermine was for the beach erosion the storm was causing along the entire east and south coast, particularly Nantucket.


"It's prolonged winds and wind off the ocean for several days," said Field.

Luckily, he said, tides at this time of the month are low, so even though the water level is expected to surge by up to 3 feet on Nantucket, there should not be flooding.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency's Emergency Operations Center in Framingham was partially activated on Monday morning, said spokesman Christopher Besse. Officials from the State Police, Department of Transportation, Department of Conservation and Recreation, and the Department of Public Utilities were all on standby, monitoring the storm.

The emergency management agency reported shortly after 11 p.m. that 550 customers were without power statewide, most of them in Eastern Massachusetts and on Cape Cod.

Globe correspondent Dylan McGuinness contributed to this report. Evan Allen can reached at evan.allen@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @EvanMAllen. Travis Andersen can be reached attravis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.