Sandy tramples island, leaves Mackerel Cove in ruins
Sandy arrived in town Monday, bringing tropical storm winds that occasionally gusted to hurricane levels. While Jamestown suffered some flooding and widespread power outages, the true cost of the storm was revealed on Tuesday morning. That is when it became clear that the town beach at Mackerel Cove had been decimated.
Recently there has been discussion about how to stem the erosion that had been taking place at Mackerel Cove. Now that discussion will have to turn to ways to restore the beach. At this time it is unclear who will foot the bill for the restoration. According to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, there will be consultations with the Coastal Resources Management Council, as well as other state and federal agencies.
Keiser said that preparations for the storm began with a meeting of the emergency management team on Friday. The team includes representatives from the police force, the Fire Department and the Department of Public Works.
According to Keiser, police had already planned to staff additional officers for the duration of the storm. Public works had crews in as early as Sunday afternoon, and Keiser added that EMS volunteers did an outstanding job of providing assistance at sites with power outages.
The emergency shelter at Melrose Avenue School was opened Sunday. One family utilized the shelter initially, and a woman with respiratory problems was transported there Monday, where she spent the night.
In the aftermath of the storm, Keiser said that DPW crews have been valuable in clearing the roads of downed trees and assisting National Grid. The town was coordinating with National Grid to get power back on. Power began to be
Hurricane Sandy hit the Jamestown coast Monday. Much of the island was without power as of Wednesday afternoon, and the most costly damage was dealt to the beach at Mackerel Cove.
restored Tuesday afternoon, and by Wednesday most of the island was lights on.
“National Grid has been very responsive,” Keiser said. “There were a lot of lessons learned from tropical storm Irene that led to a much more efficient plan to deploy personnel to the communities and keep the lines of communication open.”
Keiser left no doubt that the biggest problem going forward is Mackerel Cove. “The beach was scoured and all the dunes disappeared. This is going to take some work coordinated with the Coastal Resources Management Council, [the state Department of Environmental Management] and other state and federal agencies, because it’s not going to be an inexpensive fix to restore the dune sand.”
Keiser said he does not yet know who will be responsible for the cost of the work. The town will seek federal assistance. However, if it is not available, the result might be serious unplanned budget consequences for the town.
“The plan and the strategy for restoring the beach is an important one that is going to have coastal environmental impacts,” Keiser said. “It’s not a matter of just bringing in lots of sand. It’s got to be done in a way that hopefully we can harden the target for future storms, and in the process address what had been a long standing parking organization problem.”
Locally, Keiser said that the Conservation Commission will have a strong role in advising the council about what its recommended approaches will be.
Police Chief Ed Mello said that his department was notified on Oct. 25 that the storm was headed this way, but prior to that, scheduling and equipment testing was already underway in the event of the storm’s pending arrival. Police coordinated with public works, the fire department and the finance department to make sure that all was in readiness.
On Sunday afternoon the police department used the Everbridge system to make phone calls to approximately 4,000 residents to inform them of the coming storm. At that time residents of low-lying areas were encouraged to evacuate. Approximately 120 at-risk residents were also called. They are people with medical and mobility issues. The calls were followed up with visits when the residents could not be reached.
“We were seeing predictions of more than 10 feet of storm surge,” Mello said.
Mello said that storm surge was first seen with the first high tide Monday morning. There was minor flooding as a result, but the real impact of the storm came in the afternoon and continued for several hours.
The second high tide, at around 8:20 p.m., created flooding that resulted in impasses at Mackerel Cove, the Dumplings area, Conanicus Avenue, East Shore Road and North Road. There were also 25 to 30 trees down on the island, further blocking the road. Approximately 20 power lines were down, which made moving around the island difficult for residents as well as emergency workers.
When the storm began to subside at about 9 p.m., DPW remained on the scene, clearing roads. By late Tuesday evening, everything was passable with the exception of Mackerel Cove. Town crews were there Tuesday morning working to remove sand and debris. According to Mello, there was still a lot of work left to be done.
Mello said that there were no injuries or casualties as a result of the storm. However, there was an incident when a Jamestown resident attempted to drive her car from Beavertail to the north end of the island late Monday afternoon. The car was engulfed by water at Mackerel Cove and the driver was forced to escape out the passenger window. The car was then carried by the water to Sheffield Cove, where it was removed Tuesday afternoon.
According to Mello, there is property damage that needs to be assessed, and definite infrastructure damage at East Ferry. There was already pre-existing damage to the seawall. “It was probably exacerbated by the storm,” Mello said.
Mello said that the first priority for National Grid was clearing roads and downed power lines. After that the focus would shift to restoration for the National Grid customers who were without power.