Updates: Interstate resumes ferry service on WednesdayDamage to Ballard's 'mostly cosmetic'
Wednesday 9:00 a.m.: The Block Island Ferry is back on schedule, says its website.
The ferry will leave on schedule at 10 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. from Pt. Judith and Block Island 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. The reservation office is open 866-783-7996.
Tuesday 6:15 p.m.: Interstate Navigation will do an early-morning dry run to Block Island's Old Harbor to check for shoaling at the harbor entrance, said the company's VP Josh Linda, and will post an update about Wednesday service on the company's website at blockislandferry.com by 9 a.m. tomorrow.
Coast Guard officials took measurements Tuesday afternoon and got good readings, but wanted to return with the company Wednesday morning when seas were calmer. "We plan on resuming service as long as the Coast Guard gives the ok," Linda said.
Hurricane Sandy hit the company's Point Judith ticket office with high storm surges, Linda reported. "It's been the highest surges I've ever seen," he said. "We had 18 to 20 inches of water in there. That building was built in 1980 and we've never had water in there." The building was without grid power Tuesday and phones were down. "We're running on generator power," Linda reported by phone. The Block Island ticket office faired better: "The Block Island side is ready to go."
Three Interstate boats weathered the storm in Galilee and another three in New London, Linda reported. All are fine.
Ballard's manager Steven Filippi reports damage to the popular beach resort's building appears not to be as bad as initially feared. "We will be fine," he said via email. "Most repairs seem cosmetic and there's not any structural damage — so far."
The business is aiming for an opening date of May 17 next spring.
Tuesday 6 p.m. : Earlier this afternoon, as the Times toured the island damage with Gov. Chafee (see related story) the Times also caught up with Tim Clark of the Beachead, who was traveling back and forth all evening last night until about 9 p.m. to check in on it.
He drove a monster truck through the water to get to the restaurant. "It was the only way we could get here," he said, but even that couldn't get them too close — they had to park it several yards away. "We had about two to three inches of water in our basement," by the end of the night, he said. "We lucked out... it was scary."
He said that the water flooded right up to the front of the restaurant — so close it was splashing onto its windows. "It was just borderline," he said. "We were about to give up on the place."
Thankfully, he said that the water didn't get into the building, and the tide started receding around 9 p.m. He acknowledged that the cement bank and raised flowerbeds outside the front seating area likely helped slow the water from flooding.
The Beachead crew was hard at work cleaning up their area, working alongside town officials to clear the facing Corn Neck Road.
Tuesday 5 p.m.: Westerly is without power and Westerly Airport is currently running off a generator, said New England Airlines' Lois Bendokas, and flights have ended for today. A full schedule is expected to resume Wednesday morning.
Tuesday 4 p.m.: Ballard's Inn is working to clear up the serious damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, said manager Steven Filippi. "It could have been a lot worse," he said.
The restaurant would have sustained more serious damage if not for the help of island emergency workers, Filippi said.
"The island first responders were unbelievable," said Filippi. "Chief Carlone, Tristan Payne, Steve Land, Kevin Hoyt, Bill McCombe ad Kirk Littlefield went into Ballards during the height of the surge and we able to shutdown the power, open all the doors and saved an extensive amount of damage. We were on the phone all night putting together a game plan and they constantly put their lives on the line. Enough cannot be said about their bravery and courage last night."
Volunteers and staff were also working at the Beachhead all afternoon Tuesday to repair damage to the front of the restaurant.
A weather station at the Water Company building at Sands Pond measured a high wind speed of 70 mph on Monday at around 3 p.m. Reports of much higher wind speeds of up to 117 mph are coming in from small anemometers from homes around the island.
Tuesday 3:15: Governor Lincoln Chafee, Lt. Gov Elizabeth Roberts, Department of Environmental Management director Janet Coit and US senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse have just left the island after touring to inspect storm damage.
The group arrived by helicopter after touring Matunuck and Charlestown, and were headed to Aquidneck Island. They said Block Island appeared to have been hard hit but were impressed by how volunteers had got together to start clean up early Tuesday.
Tuesday 2:45: The Block Island Power Company has restored power to about 75 homes, and is working to put another 25 or so back on the grid by the end of the day.
"We're tired and it's not over yet," said company CEO Cliff McGinnes. Hardest hit was the West Side circuit, he said — homes there have been without power since Monday afternoon. "We did a lot of work up there yesterday afternoon but we couldn't find the problem," McGinnes said.
There are other homes that are out on a piece-by-piece basis around the island, he said: "We have little stuff here and there, up Corn Neck Road and High Street. We hope most of it will be done by the end of today."
Block Island Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue staff worked through the night Monday as residents nervously watched the storm surge. "We are all pretty tired," said Rescue Captain Bryan Wilson, who said the Fire crew in particular were up though the night. "But once things calmed down after the high tide hit, we were able to step back a little, and most of us got some sleep."
"I think we lucked out," said Police Chief Vincent Carlone, who confirmed that while there was damage to roads and some commercial buildings, no one was hurt.
Tuesday 1:55 p.m.: Anyone experiencing loss of phone or internet service at their homes may contact Verizon. Town Manager Nancy Dodge has passed on the following numbers from the company: Verizon's toll free number 1-800-VERIZON (1-800-837-4966) and website www.verizon.com/support.
Tuesday 1:45 pm: The sound of helicopters echoed across Block Island at lunchtime Tuesday as news organizations sent crews out to report on the island, and Governor Lincoln Chafee was expected to arrive by helicopter from Westerly at 1:40 p.m. to tour the island and assess storm damage.
The US Coast Guard were checking the depth of the Old Harbor channel, said Interstate Navigation security director Bill McCombe. Storm surges piled sand into the harbor, and there were fears the channel could be too silted up for ferries to pass. But McCombe said the company is optimistic that ferry service will resume Wednesday, Oct. 31.
The storm lifted the newly renovated dock next to Ballard's, leaving it sitting twisted atop piles of sand. "It could be totalled," said Police Chief Vincent Carlone.
An engineer from the state Department of Transportation was expected to arrive Tuesday afternoon to assess damage to Corn Neck Road and Spring Street.
New England Airlines is flying a limited scheduled today and will resume full service Wednesday, said airline co-owner Lois Bendokas. Call for information on flight times.
High tides and storm surges hammered the eastern side of the island during Hurricane Sandy's day long assault Monday, seriously undermining two coastal roads. The newly reconstructed docks in Old Harbor were littered with debris and warped Tuesday morning, as eye witness reports came in of boats in the harbor floating above the level of the docks.
No one on Block Island was hurt and most homes were spared serious damage, but roads near the shore were washed out, and Ballard's in Old Harbor had sustained serious damage from storm surges and waves.
“Corn Neck just amazes me — it’s flat to the beach,” said Town Manager Nancy Dodge. She says she has been in contact with the state Department of Transportation, and they will be sending over officials to assess the roads.
Corn Neck Road is too damaged for traffic, but residents can reach town via Beach Avenue. Spring Street at the curve above the jetty and Pebbly Beach will remain closed for the time being, Dodge said.
“We came out better than at one point I thought we would,” Dodge said. She also noted she heard some people logged winds up to 115 mph.
She added that the Town Beach parking lot is flooded and the pavilion's doors are blown off, but structurally the building is ok.
School was cancelled Monday and Tuesday, but a message to parents said it is expected to be back on Wednesday. The school bus will pick students up 5 minutes earlier to accommodate a new route that avoids the damaged part of Spring Street.
Power was restored in Old Harbor but residents in other parts of the island were still waiting for the lights to come back on. Big trees had fallen down all around the island.
At least one home off Corn Neck had a flooded basement, but Road Crew and Fire Department workers were up at the crack of dawn Tuesday clearing debris from driveways and starting to pump out basements.
One big relief for island residents: the storm surge did not reach the Department of Environmental Management parking lot in Galilee where many residents store cars, reported Megan Moran from Interstate Navigation.
The ferry company's offices in Galilee are without power this morning. Ferries are cancelled today. New England Airlines is flying.
Harbormaster Steve Land was taking a depth assessment in Old Harbor to make sure sand born into the harbor on the storm had not silted up the channel to a depth too shallow for the ferries to pass.
Candidates' Night for tonight has been postponed. The Times and BIRA are working to see whether there is another night that candidates can make but so far it appears unlikely.
Town Hall and the Block Island Grocery Store are open.
The Beachead sustained exterior damage but the interior was unhurt, with just a little water in the basement, said Kimberly Ward.
Workers were already clearing sand from the interior of Ballard's, which took heavy damage as high seas and southeast winds Monday afternoon and evening brought the seas right up over the Old Harbor breakwalls. The back of the restaurant had been severely damaged and parts were open to the air Tuesday morning.
More updates throughout the day as we learn more.