Mainers get ready for storm that wasn’t

Contributed | BDN
By Sharon Kiley Mack and Diana Graettinger, Special to the BDN
Posted Sept. 28, 2008, at 9:24 p.m.

It was a quiet day Sunday at the Washington County Command Center, set up in a $300,000 mobile Department of Conservation unit in the parking lot of the Washington County Courthouse in Machias.

By 4 p.m., everyone was convinced the storm was on track for Nova Scotia and would only graze Maine.

“Oh well, it’s better to get all dressed up for the dance in case you get invited than be caught in just a T-shirt,” Forest Ranger Rick Henion said.

“Our biggest role is to plan for the worst to happen,” Henion said. That would be winds up to 80 mph and 8 inches of rain in this case.

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The command center was purchased through Maine Emergency Management Agency funds and most recently was used at the governor’s conference in Bar Harbor. Before that, it was at the Greenville Flyin, just in case an airplane went down. The Washington-Hancock County divisions of the DOC are now the proud owners of the unit.

The center is filled with computers, large projection screens and radios to communicate with every other county and state agency. It also has generators and other emergency supplies.

Mike Hinerman, Emergency Management Agency director for Washington County, said, “This unit is here for the worst-case scenario. If we had been hit, everything would take place in here: logistics, support, planning. I’d much rather be prepared than caught short.”

As Kyle turned away from Maine’s coast, Lubec resident William Corey observed, “It’s breaking up, going to pieces. It needs hot water and we don’t have it.” Corey and about 20 other people attended an emergency weather preparedness meeting at the Lubec town office, which planned to remain open all night in case residents needed help.

“Well, 35 or 45 mph winds, we’re used to that,” Selectman Bo Leighton added. “That’s just a normal nor’easter.”

Town officials thought it would be a good time to review the town’s emergency protocol.

“The only reason for this meeting was to bring everyone in and bring them up to date and ask if there are any questions. The firetrucks are gassed up and ready to go and we have lots of chain saws,” town administrator Maureen Glidden said .

Heavy rains appeared to be a potential problem. “What we are looking at right now is mostly water damage. From what I understand, the bulk of the hurricane — the winds — are supposed to go around us,” Glidden said.

However, the town did get national attention Sunday after The Weather Channel sent its meteorologist to West Quoddy Head, which prompted one person to comment that at least the storm reminded people of where Maine is located. Most times, he added, national weather readers stand in front of Maine as they talk about the weather in the rest of the country.

For a time Sunday, people were comparing Hurricane Kyle to the Ground Hog Day Storm.

Lubec town clerk Betty Case recalled the fury of that 1976 storm. As she leafed through a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings, she recalled boats tossed up on the wharf, destroyed boathouses and broken windows. She said a branding iron used to mark buoys in her grandfather’s boathouse ended up missing when the boathouse crashed to the ground. Months later the branding iron was found on the beach. “That was about the only thing we salvaged out of it,” she said.

Other towns were making preparations, too.

Eastport City Manager George “Bud” Finch said this hurricane warning was the first of its type in 17 years. “You have to take it somewhat seriously, but you don’t want to get a frenzy of people getting awfully excited and nothing happens. So our tendency is to be a little more low profile, get everything set and in order and then watch.”

Pleasant Point Reservation Police Chief Joey Barnes said they were keeping watch on those tribal elders who did not live in the housing complex for the elderly. In the event of power outages or hurricane-force winds, the elderly and others could be moved to the elementary school.

In Jonesport, four men gathered around a dozen empty coffee cups at the Moosabec Variety, talking about the coming storm.

“It’ll be givin’ a good breeze,” lobsterman Mark Carver of Beals Island predicted, in the typically understated way Down Easters have.

Carver said Hurricane Kyle had been the topic of conversation among fishermen for days.

“Everyone is prepared. The boats are all moored and we’ve put the [lobster] traps out in deeper water for the surge,” he said. Carver’s boat, Butterfly Kisses, was safely moored but he admitted, “I’d be stupid if I said I wasn’t worried.” Just then, the foggy skies opened up in a downpour. “Here he comes,” Carter said.

Sitting across the table, Paul Farnsworth said the entire area worries about the fishermen because the region’s economy is built on the fishing industry. “I own Paul’s Garage. If they don’t survive, I won’t,” he said.

At the Jonesport Coast Guard Station, Petty Officer 2nd Class Dan Heitzer said a two-hour patrol was launched at 6 a.m. Sunday.

“We checked every mooring to make sure all boats were secure,”’ he said. The Jonesport station looked over more than 100 working and pleasure boats in the waters off Beals Island. The Coast Guardsmen then removed the station’s two smallest boats from the ocean and planned on just riding out the storm.

“We’ll hunker down and stand by,” Heitzer said. “There’s not much we can do until it hits.” He said that Monday morning the boats will head back out, complete with portable pumps, and make sure there are no problems such as sinking vessels or pollution incidents, and that all buoys remain in place.

“Once we know that everything is all set, we’ll go back out and use the high seas for training exercises,” he said.

In Roque Bluffs State Park, a Massachusetts couple saw the pending storm as part of an adventure.

Cyndy Roche-Cotter and her husband, Mike Cotter, were traveling the Maine coast on the first leg of their retirement journey in a brand-new recreational vehicle.

The couple, both nurses from Boston, were hanging on to a beach umbrella that was being buffeted by the wind, trying to take photographs of the surf at Roque Bluffs State Park. They were surprised to learn that the beach usually doesn’t have surf. Despite predictions that Kyle would land in the Lubec-Eastport area later Sunday, the couple said they were headed to Lubec.

“We’re going for it,” Roche-Cotter said, smiling and laughing. “We get hurricanes in Boston all the time. We’re not worried.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2008/09/28/news/mainers-get-ready-for-storm-that-wasnrsquot/ printed on December 10, 2016