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Tornadoes! Sharks! Brutal heat! It’s Hell Week on Cape Cod

A National Grid worker checked for gas leaks near a downed tree in Harwich on Wednesday, a day after a tornado went through. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

We can probably all agree that nothing says “Yippee! I’m on vacation!” like time spent dealing with Eversource.

Such has been the pleasure of Conor Roddy, 25, who’s in Harwich with his family, a vacation tradition that this year coincided with what can rightly be called Hell Week on Cape Cod.

Just to review what the folks doing the traditional Saturday-to-Saturday Cape rental have been through: The weekend was brutally hot. Then it rained. Then came the tornadoes — and the destruction they caused, leaving roads blocked, restaurants shuttered, shows stopped mid-stream, and the Barnstable County Fair temporarily canceled. Oh, right, and the sharks.


And it’s only mid-week!

Compared to the suffering of local small business owners and residents whose property took a hit from the violent weather, a traumatic vacation may not amount to a hill of beans. Still, for the people who giddily marked a calendar way back in January, imagining a week of sublime summer relaxation, it isn’t exactly a dream come true.

Consider Roddy. The house he and his family rented, as of Wednesday afternoon, still had no power due to downed lines. That left Roddy, an investment banker in New York City, to deal with Eversource.

“In a weird way, at first, it was nice,” he said. “We were completely unplugged because all of our phones were dead.”

That was Tuesday. But by the time Wednesday dawned, the modern version of roughing it had gotten old. “It was fun until we woke up and couldn’t shower and had to drive 20 minutes to a coffee shop to charge our phones,” he said.

Note to people who randomly chose this week to vacation on Cape Cod: Do not play your number.

But you know what you should do? As a public service? Post your vacation photos on Facebook so the rest of us can, for once, feel good that we’re not on vacation.


Poor Jay Norton, the principal of an elementary school in Holden. He’s in East Orleans now, for the one full week a year he takes off. On Wednesday, he was taking a “let’s look on the bright side” approach.

“It’s been an adventure,” he said. “We were pulled out of Nauset [beach] for a shark sighting. We had tornado warnings. We lost power all day yesterday. We drove by electrical fires.”

At this point in the phone conversation he called out to his family members, “What else happened, guys?”

Violet 7, and Graham, 10, piped up: “One of the people we’re staying with fell in a bush.”

Andrea Rizzo and her daughter Millie watched while an impromptu softball game happened in Harwich. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Scholars of family vacations have yet to study the Great Cape Challenge of 2019, but it’s a fact well known that these minor tragedies (such as a lack of air conditioning or a closed ice cream shop) can either spark tension or become a bonding experience.

Perhaps no one was better positioned to see the stress hovering in the air like so much humidity than Michael McCarty, manager of Cape Escape Adventure Golf in Orleans.

“We’re getting a lot of calls asking if we have power,” he said. “The parents are really glad when we’re open. They are looking for things to do.”

But the parents who are still on the Cape, desperately trying to entertain kids? They’re the lucky ones. Adrian Kelly, a lawyer visiting all the way from County Cavan, Ireland, and his family had to cut their Cape vacation short after their Airbnb lost power — not to mention that it felt unsafe to be surrounded by downed trees.


It would be hard to say Kelly enjoyed the trip in the traditional meaning of the word — “it was pretty traumatic for the kids,” he said — but it was an experience, albeit one better appreciated in retrospect.

“It was interesting to have been through,” he said, “but certainly not something I’d like to repeat.”

But hey, look outside. The weather has improved. The shrubs haven’t claimed any more victims, and now it’s back to business on the Cape, with only the sharks and the traffic to gripe about.

For his part, Eric Earls, the head of Public Works in Pawtucket was defiantly upbeat.

Yes, it was hot and his place has no air conditioning (but it does have fans!), and the kids had to huddle in the basement during the tornado, and they lost power, but on Wednesday, his extended family all played a ball game and had a grand time.

“You are on the Cape,” Earls said, meaning that life was good. “Things could be a lot worse.”

Please, God, no.

The bike path in Harwich was popular a day after the tornado. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff
The Earls family made the best of it in Harwich, clearing debris off a ball field and playing a game. Andre Earls ran the bases while Tabitha Earls was behind him. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Beth Teitell can be reached at beth.teitell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.