Mashpee Braces For Hurricane Irene, As She Heads North And West

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By: Brian Kehrl
Published: 08/26/11

Town officials, businesses, and residents are gearing up for a possible brush with Hurricane Irene.

As of last night, the Category 3 storm was swirling up past the eastern coast of Florida, with a trajectory headed toward southern New England, west of Cape Cod, where it was expected to reach on Sunday.

Town emergency planning officials said yesterday it was too early to tell what to expect from the storm. They were scheduled to meet this morning to prepare final plans. But precautions were already underway.

Mashpee Fire Chief George W. Baker Jr., who oversees the town’s emergency planning efforts, said, “Right now, we are in preparations stage.”

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Town employees are planning to check the supplies at Mashpee High School, which serves as the town’s primary emergency shelter, he said. He said planning is underway to open the shelter on Saturday night, if necessary.

Information about whether the shelter is open will be available via the town’s reverse 911 system, which can place a phone call to all town residents, as well as at the town website (www.mashpeema.gov), through the Cape and Islands Chapter of the American Red Cross (http://www.capecodandislandsredcross.org/), and via radio stations WXTK (95.1 FM) and WQRC (99.9 FM), he said. The Enterprise will also be posting information as it becomes available at www.capenews.net.

“That is an important message, to have batteries ready for the radio, because that is an avenue to communicate,” he said.

A secondary shelter in town is located at the Quashnet School.

Shelters at Sandwich High School on Quaker Meetinghouse Road and Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School in South Yarmouth will allow pets.

Chief Baker, who is in Atlanta attending a conference on wildfire management, said he plans to come home Saturday morning or earlier, depending on the weather predictions. He said he has been monitoring the storm closely and is in regular communication with local officials from Atlanta.

Emergency planners advise residents to prepare for spending 48 to 72 hours without electricity.

Mashpee Police Chief Rodney C. Collins said his department, which includes the harbormaster, is preparing to haul its boats out of the water and ensuring that structures around the water, like docks and moorings, are secure. The boats will be ready to go back in as soon as the storm passes, he said.

“Cape Cod could take a pounding. And if it does, we want to be prepared for the aftermath,” he said. “The key is to watch the weather pattern over the next few hours. A lot can change between now and Friday night.”

Coast Guard Sector Southern New England has hauled all non-essential boats from the water and are drawing up plans to be able to respond as long as they can without putting vessels in jeopardy. The Coast Guard is advising mariners to secure boats to a safe mooring or haul them out. They also ask that rowboats have the name and phone number of the owners on them and are secured. The weather could take the small boats out to sea.

Mashpee Department of Public Works Director Catherine A. Laurent said 300 tons of sand were dumped onto South Cape Beach to protect the vulnerable coastline from erosion. DPW workers were canvassing the town to find low-hanging tree limbs and other possible sources of damage or debris, Ms. Laurent said.

“We are watching how the storm is tracking, and I guess the latest information is that it is going to be going west of us, so we are at this point anticipating just tropical storm conditions, not a hurricane. But that can always change,” Ms. Laurent said.

Residents may report downed trees and limbs to the DPW at 508-539-1420.

At the True Value hardware store in Deer Crossing, sales associate Alexander D. Colacchio said items like duct tape, tarps, and even repair supplies like wood strapping and nails were flying off the shelves yesterday. Inventory of flashlights and D batteries were already running low, he said.

Nelson Brace, manager of the Mashpee Neck Marina in Popponesset Bay, said his crew was pulling bigger boats out of the water yesterday. A final decision about whether to haul all the boats at the marina would be made this morning, he said.

“We are taking it seriously. You have to,” he said.

Four teams are scheduled to be working tomorrow and Saturday, including a crew coming down from the North Shore, to get the boats out of the water, he said.

Asked for his gut feeling about what to expect from Irene, Mr. Brace said, “I think we are going to be on what they call the bad side of the hurricane, which will be a little less rain but a little more wind. I’m guessing a Category 1 storm, with 85- to 100-mile-per-hour winds, which is a serious blow, but it is not a devastating blow.”

If its current path holds, the storm is scheduled to arrive in the region at the same time as an extraordinarily high tide, which Shellfish Constable Richard H. York Jr. said poses a more significant threat to places like Buzzards Bay with a larger tidal prism than to Mashpee, where the tide is restricted by the Islands and Nantucket Sound.

High tide for Popponesset Bay is scheduled for 1:09 PM on Sunday afternoon and 1:26 AM on Monday morning.

“Right now it is a wait and see,” Mr. York said late yesterday afternoon.

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