Hurricane Lee To Swipe Island With Wind, Rain, And Surf As It Passes To The East

Jason Graziadei •

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Hurricane Lee's track will take it farther off Nantucket's eastern shore than initially feared as it marches north, but the powerful storm is still expected to pack a punch as it passes by the island.

A tropical storm warning has been issued for Nantucket and much of the New England coast ahead of Hurricane Lee's arrival offshore, which is expected late Friday night and into Saturday morning. 

"We're hoping people take it seriously," Nantucket Police Chief Bill Pittman told the Select Board on Wednesday after meeting with the island's emergency preparedness team and getting briefed by the National Weather Service. Pittman said the island should expect tropical storm-force winds late Friday night and into Saturday, along with heavy rainfall. "The biggest risk for most people on the island is trees falling and limbs," he added. "The trees are still full of leaves...If somebody asked me how I'd characterize this storm, I'm going to say it’s going to be a very strong nor’easter that’s going to hit Nantucket."

While a storm surge is expected, it will coincide with an astronomically low tide cycle and is not expected to be significant, Pittman said. Still, he expects moderate flooding at the usual spots along the harbor, including Easy Street, lower Main Street, and on Broad Street. Crews from the DPW will be putting up barricades if necessary, he added, and he asked residents not to remove them. 

Nantucket Harbormaster Sheila Lucey said residents and the boating community should prepare for high winds and huge surf as the storm passes by. Lucey's staff will close the storm gate at the Children's Beach boat ramp on Friday at 11 a.m.

Meanwhile, the Steamship Authority is expecting service disruptions to begin Friday and extend through Sunday morning due to the storm. The afternoon freight boats on Friday have already been canceled. Hy-Line Cruises announced that its Nantucket-Hyannis route will be running on a trip-by-trip basis on Friday, with service interruptions anticipated. 

The Children's Beach boat ramp has been a beehive of activity since Tuesday as boat owners hauled their vessels out in advance of the storm. By Thursday evening, the mooring field was largely empty.

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The Children's Beach boat ramp on Tuesday as boaters hauled out their vessels.

Lucey also requested that all dinghies be removed from the dinghy dock at the town pier, and announced that the town pier and floating docks would also be closed during the storm.

"I’m thinking we’re going to have very strong northeast winds and I anticipate that we’re going to be asking people to stay out of the water," Lucey said. "The boat ramp has been slammed, which is great, and there have been some moorings set in Polpis too. Everyone is doing what they think is right."

While the town's emergency preparedness team and other officials were preparing for the storm, Nantucket's wedding planners and vendors were also scrambling. Town Clerk Nancy Holmes told the Current that there were at least 10 weddings scheduled on the island for Friday night and Saturday.

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via WBZ's Eric Fisher

Pittman said that a team from the American Red Cross on the mainland would be traveling to the island and ready to open an emergency shelter at Nantucket High School if it became necessary. That team arrived on Nantucket Thursday afternoon, and was spotted making preparations at the high school. 

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Photo by Kit Noble

Coast Guard Station Brant Point was also preparing for the impacts of the passing storm.

"We're going through our plans and checklists, and we'll be pulling the smaller boats probably on Thursday to make sure they're protected so we can respond if we need to," said Station Brant Point master chief Lance Wiser. "We're keeping in touch with the marine community, the sector in Woods Hole, and obviously hurricanes are unpredictable and you really don't know. Sometimes it won't be that bad but you get a massive storm surge, or you'll get a lot of wind and no storm surge. I've served most of my career in the Caribbean, in Florida, and in Charleston, so it's nothing new, but it's a different area. We're definitely monitoring the situation and I know the boat ramp has been busy with people pulling boats out. I've been in touch with the Harbormaster and the rest of the marine community about their plans."

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