Downeast emergency workers gear up for Kyle just in case

Posted Sept. 28, 2008, at 4:21 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:18 a.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 Superior Courthouse.

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 miles per hour and eight inches of rain in this case. “But the predicted track is getting better and better for us now,” he said. “It looks like Nova Scotia will take a direct hit.”

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 Fly-in, 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.”

Gathered around a dozen empty coffee cups at the Moosabec Variety in Jonesport Sunday afternoon, four local men talked about the coming storm.

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

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