Cape Cod greets Earl with plywood and grumbling

By Scott Malone

CHATHAM, Massachusetts (BestGrowthStock) – Residents and business owners in the beach communities of Cape Cod and nearby islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard hung plywood over their shop windows on Friday and rued the arrival of Hurricane Earl, which appeared set to spoil their holiday weekend.

But the vacation haven for many of America’s rich and famous, from presidents to musicians to hedge fund managers, looked like it would be spared a direct hit from the storm.

President Barack Obama and his family visited Martha’s Vineyard in August, where they endured several days of chilly rain but missed the hurricane threat.

Boat owners scrambled to pull their small craft from the water while authorities recommended that residents and vacationers who planned to stay put for the hurricane, which weakened to a Category 1 storm on Friday, had enough food and water to last three days.

In Chatham, the part of the mainland Cape expected to take the worst hit from Earl, many businesses had covered their windows and planned to close early before the storm, which was expected to bring wind gusts of up to 70 miles per hour according to the National Weather Service.

“I am happy it got downgraded but it’s better to be prepared,” said Taylor Evangelista, 28, manager of the Soft as a Grape gift shop, which had boarded up its windows and hung a sign that read “Customers Welcome, Earl Go Away.”

The storm was hurting business heading into the weekend when the United States celebrates Labor Day, typically considered the end of the summer vacation period.

“This is the last big weekend,” Evangelista said, adding that she hoped people would return on Saturday, after the storm had passed.

Business owners in nearby Hyannis, close to the Kennedy family’s famous waterfront compound in Hyannis Port, cited similar worries.

“I’m concerned about my windows,” Betsy Young, 48, said outside her Soho Arts Company shop.

She said this weekend was usually the last busy weekend of the year for area retailers. “I’m going to lose Friday and probably most of Saturday,” preparing for and the cleaning up after the storm, she said.

LIGHTER BLOW

Still, area residents said they were glad to hear the storm had been downgraded from its peak Category 4 strength it had on the 5-point Saffir-Simpson scale when it first approached North Carolina a day earlier.

“I was here for Hurricane Bob. That was pretty serious, this one is supposed to be a lot smaller,” said Tom Huckman, 46, of Harwich, referring to the 1991 storm that hit Cape Cod with 125 mile per hour winds and left sailboats scattered on local streets.

Some vacationers were hoping to salvage their holiday weekends after Earl passed.

“I was toying with the idea of taking my boat out (of the water), but I decided to ride it out. It’s not going to be that long a storm,” said Scott Briley, 44, of North Andover, Massachusetts.

On Nantucket, which was expected to feel the worst of the storm, authorities had closed beaches and planned to open emergency shelters on Friday.

U.S. Senator John Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz, are among the notables who own houses on Nantucket where the population swells fivefold, to about 50,000, in summer.

As Earl approached, residents and visitors outside low-lying areas were advised to ride out the storm in place if possible and to gather supplies of food and water.

The company that runs ferries between Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and the mainland said it expected to suspend service by afternoon. The regional airline Cape Air canceled many of its flights to the Cape and the island.

The American Red Cross prepared for the worst by opening emergency shelters at several locations on the Cape.

In Hyannis, the First Baptist Church was scrambling to cover its new stained-glass windows with plywood.

“They just redid these, it must have cost them a couple hundred thousand dollars,” said Norman MacLean, 65, who was hanging the plywood sheeting. “They want them to last longer than the old ones, and they lasted 100 years.”

(Editing by Ros Krasny and Vicki Allen)

Cape Cod greets Earl with plywood and grumbling