2011-09-01 / Editorial

Jamestown missed the worst from Hurricane Irene

Even if you had not been paying attention to the news and weather reports last week, you would have probably noticed that something was up. There was a tension in the air. Folks were busier than normal. People were taking their boats out of the water. Homeowners were securing their properties for wind and water. Businesses were boarding up their windows.

Hurricane Irene was forecast to maul the eastern seaboard and then head directly towards New England.

Those with waterfront interests were actively getting ready for the first hurricane to hit the island in 20 years. Thursday and Friday last week were beautiful sunny days and islanders were preparing for the wrath of Mother Nature. The island boat yards were quickly hauling out boats and docks. Those people who left vessels at their moorings readied their boats to ride out the storm.

It wasn’t only high winds that were expected but also high water. A higher than normal new moon tide coupled with the anticipated storm surge made flood waters a real danger. Sandbags were provided by the town to those who anticipated high water.

The campers at Fort Getty were exposed to storm damage and were asked to evacuate, as were some residents who live in the island’s low-lying areas. The emergency shelter was opened at Melrose Avenue School.

Everybody did what they could to prepare for the hurricane. Then it came down to waiting for the storm.

The hurricane tracked to the west of the island. Winds here only reached about 60 mph. Not much more than a strong tropical storm. There wasn’t all that much rain.

High tide and crashing surf flooded Conanicut Avenue and North Road at the Creek. Several sailboats were blown ashore on the eastern side of Conanicut Island. Large trees were toppled and broken tree limbs littered neighborhoods. Jamestown lost electricity service for two days.

After the storm there was the sound of generators humming and the buzz of chainsaws as storm debris was removed. On Monday, the sun came out and everyone started cleaning up the mess.

When you watch news reports of the storm damage elsewhere you realize what we missed. Yes, the hurricane was an inconvenience and there was some local damage. But there is much suffering elsewhere. Water and wind damage is extensive in some areas.

As I write this on Wednesday morning there are still some 100,000 National Grid customers without electricity in Rhode Island. There are many more without power in other states. There are homes and businesses in those states that are a total loss. At least 49 people have died due to hurricane-related causes.

Jamestown was lucky. For that we are thankful. You never know what will happen when a hurricane heads your way. You heed the warnings and do your best to prepare and then hope and pray while you wait.

— Jeff McDonough

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