In Provincetown, Drifting Snow Trapped Many Indoors
PROVINCETOWN — On narrow, tightly packed side streets, the winds whipped into curls and eddies and piled snow to the tops of some doors and windows. Even those who braved the wind to shovel often found their efforts erased in a swirling wash of snow. And if you forgot to mind your screen door, snow could pile up against it in drifts waist or chest high in a mere hour or two.
Andrew Fitzpatrick, a waiter and drag performer who lives on Court Street, was making coffee and lunch for his friend Kevin Fessler when they realized they were snowed in.
“I was in the middle of cooking lunch when we looked out the door and realized the drift was two feet high,” said Fitzpatrick. “We couldn’t even open the screen door enough to chip away at it. Kevin started freaking out, saying, ‘I’ve got to go check on my house.’ ‘There’s food in the skillet,’ I said. ‘Can I at least finish cooking?’ ”
Not long afterwards, another friend who was driving by offered to help dig out the door from outside. After some shoveling, he gave the screen door a strong tug and it came off its hinges.
The three did go check on Fessler’s house after that, and when Fitzpatrick got back to his own home the drift in front of his door was up to his shoulders.
“I had to step into the snow up to my shoulders just to walk inside,” said Fitzpatrick. “There’s no way I would have made it back in with that screen door.”
Jonathan Peters, a clothing designer who lives on Conant Street, also had to face shoulder-height snow. His house doesn’t have a screen door. But the snow shovel was out back, near the trash cans. This turned out to be a problem.
“The snow was swirling, and I couldn’t really see out my window,” said Peters. “So, when I opened my door, I was surprised the snow was just over waist high. At first I thought I’d get a broom and push the snow out of the way.” That did not work. “So, I had to get my biggest pasta pot and start scooping and dumping the snow.”
That didn’t work well either. “Eventually, I just threw myself into the snow,” said Peters. He found a less snow-filled region on the lee side of his car. “It was kind of trippy, because once I got past the car, there was no snow on the ground at all.” Between his front door and his neighbor’s was a six-foot-high drift.
Another Provincetown drag performer, Matty Laurenza, was rescued from a house on Bradford Street by the fire dept.
“The front door had a five-foot drift blocking it,” said Laurenza, “and the back door had somehow broken a hinge, and it wasn’t closing. There was snow blowing into the house.” The fire dept. gave Laurenza a ride to a friend’s place in Truro.
Concerns about the town’s planning for the blizzard and communication with residents prompted the select board to call an emergency meeting for Wednesday, Feb. 2. —Paul Benson
Truro Powers Through the Blizzard
TRURO — As Truro town officials prepared for blizzard conditions and a forecasted 12 to 18 inches of snow, they advised residents on Jan. 27 to prepare for power outages during the weekend.
But Truro faced fewer and briefer outages than most Cape Cod towns. “Most towns were announcing warming stations around 1:30 p.m. on Sunday,” Town Manager Darrin Tangeman told the Independent by email. “At that time, Truro had zero dispatch calls for warming stations.” Ninety-nine percent of homes in town had power restored by Sunday at 2 p.m.
Even so, Tangeman said, first responders were ready to transport anyone in need to the public safety facility for warming or to the regional shelter at Nauset High School. Truro officials had planned to open a warming station at the Truro library if the shelter at Nauset reached capacity.
When asked about special preparations for Truro’s elderly population, Tangeman responded, “The town has a reassurance list for our most vulnerable population that our dispatch calls every morning.” If the dispatcher failed to hear from someone, Tangeman said, they would drive to the vulnerable person’s house. Only once was the fire dept. called on to help someone move to a warmer place — one senior resident who ran out of propane needed to be placed in a hotel.
As for lessons learned, Tangeman thought clarifying the purpose of warming stations, which are used for a limited time (one or two hours), and regional shelters, usually used for more than a day or two, would reduce confusion.
Getting to either would have been challenging for any driver on Saturday. Even though public works crews had been plowing throughout the day and would continue into the night, road conditions were treacherous, and crews needed roads clear to operate plows.
Ryan Schmidt, a Truro plow operator, wrote at 5 p.m. on Tuesday that he had been removing snow and ice “nonstop” since Friday at 7 p.m.
“Time to wash, rinse, grease, maintain, and get ready for the next one,” said Schmidt. —Thomas Lyons
Under the Dancing Power Lines
WELLFLEET — As far-below-freezing hurricane-force gusts hit on Saturday, Wellfleet Police Chief Mike Hurley shifted into high gear in his role as the town’s emergency management coordinator.
That meant working with the town’s reassurance program, which checks in with a list of elderly and vulnerable residents in town. Sometimes this requires the team to knock on a door or two. “We went to check on people after getting calls from loved ones concerned the loss of power would make a house too cold,” Hurley said.
A few calls were from people wanting to be moved to a shelter. On Saturday, the nearest warming station was at Nauset High School in Eastham. It opened at 6 a.m.
“Our advice was to stay off the road,” Hurley said. So, the town made about a dozen transfers to the high school. “The fire department and Shellfish Constable Nancy Civetta helped,” he said.
Hurley’s other priorities during the storm included making sure snow was cleared for emergency access and pushing to get power restored. One innovation this time around: Hurley arranged to have an Eversource liaison at the station.
“I didn’t have to call six people,” he said. “I had a guy next to me from Eversource.” That guy helped match the company’s crews to the most pressing needs.
While most Wellfleeters were looking for warmth, surfer and landscaper Kai Potter was keen to embrace the rare conditions.
“It was late Saturday, and the wind was lashing the tops of the pines around my little wood-stove-heated home,” he wrote to the Independent. “I felt restless. I needed to see the world beyond my own yard.”
With a few solid yanks, he opened the door to his truck, which had frozen shut. Potter drove east to Ocean View Drive, the narrow road that snakes along the top of the dunes, sometimes only 100 feet from an edge that falls away to the ocean. “The weather is felt there,” Potter said. “Storms expose our fragility.”
He stopped at the top of a hill, where the wind concentrates and where he watched the electrical wires come to life, he said. “Long spans of ice-laden cord, weighing hundreds of pounds, snapping and rolling their entire length,” he said. “The wind and snow were playing jump-rope.”
By Sunday, road conditions were safer, so a warming center was opened at the fire station, then later at the Council on Aging when that building got power restored about 5 p.m., Hurley said. Most Wellfleet residences got their power back late Sunday afternoon or early evening.
On Monday morning, Chief Hurley was still dealing with the aftermath. “With every single storm,” he said, “there’s always different things to learn.” —Michaela Chesin
35 Residents Seek Shelter at High School
EASTHAM — Fallen trees and downed electric lines caused significant power outages during Saturday’s storm. On Sunday morning, 93 percent of Eastham residents did not have power. That number was down to 23 percent by Sunday evening.
Police Chief Adam Bohannon told the Independent he always worries about power outages at this time of year, but credited Eversource’s preparation and response to the storm.
More than 35 residents affected by the storm traveled to the shelter at Nauset Regional High School. Bohannon said that public safety officers transported several people who could not drive themselves to the shelter, which was open from 6 a.m. Saturday until Sunday afternoon. Volunteers from AmeriCorps Cape Cod, Cape Cod Medical Reserve Corps, and the Community Emergency Response Team staffed the shelter, according to a press release from the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee.
“We could not manage these critical incidents without them,” Bohannon said.
A warming center at the Eastham Public Library was open from 1 to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Bohannon said that about 35 people took advantage of that service. —Cam Blair