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New England braces for quick hit by Hanna

Utilities, mariners take precautions for stormy night

By Tania deLuzuriaga
Globe Staff / September 7, 2008
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Power companies put workers on call and mariners battened down their hatches yesterday as New Englanders prepared for the arrival of Tropical Storm Hanna.

"We started getting ready a couple of days ago," said Rex McKinsey, the Provincetown harbormaster. "I keep telling people the best place for a boat in a storm is on land, not running into it."

Many in Provincetown heeded the warning, yanking their boats from the harbor before Hanna hit last night. Those who didn't doubled up on mooring lines, and McKinsey said he planned to have someone on watch throughout the storm.

"We do the best we can and then we pretty much have to let it happen," McKinsey said.

Flash flood warnings and tropical storm warnings were issued for southern New England yesterday. A tornado warning was issued last evening in the New Haven area. Coastal Maine and southern New Hampshire were forecast to be hit as well, though the impact was expected to be minimal as the storm headed north.

"We are taking precautions," said the Scituate harbormaster, Mark Patterson, whose staff spent the morning checking on boats in the town's harbor.

"We're going around checking the marinas, making sure boats added extra lines and that they have fenders out," he said. "We're not underestimating this storm, but I don't think it's going to be catastrophic . . . "

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency had a handful of staffers on duty throughout the night monitoring the storm. Earlier, officials briefed officials in communities on Cape Cod and the Islands, and the state's southeast on how best to prepare for heavy winds. Officials in communities as far north as the Merrimack Valley were advised to prepare for as much as six inches of rain, spokesman Peter Judge said.

"This thing is probably looking more like a northeaster, but a northeaster with leaves on the trees," Judge said by telephone last night. "It could do some pruning."

Although rivers and streams are not high, some streams could overflow and street flooding is expected in urban areas, Judge added. "It depends on how fast this thing moves through, " he said of the storm's potential impact.

Hanna dumped 1.3 inches of rain in Boston as of 10:30 p.m. last night, according to the National Weather Service in Taunton. But the center of the storm was not expected to pass over northern Plymouth County until 3 a.m. to 4 a.m., meteorologist William Babcock said.

"As it pulls out to see, it will taper off," Babcock said.

Winds were expected to reach 50 to 55 miles per hour in the southeastern portion of the state and up to 60 miles per hour on the Cape and Islands by 10:30 p.m. last night, gusts of 40 miles per hour were recorded at Taunton Airport, according to the weather service. Gusts of 35 to 40 miles per hour were expected in the Boston area. The storm was expected to move north to Nova Scotia by this morning.

"It's going to be a stormy night for all of Massachusetts," National Weather Service meteorologist Alan Dunham said. "I would anticipate some power outages and trees down in some areas where the storm hits hardest."

As of 10:30 p.m. last night, National Grid reported 21,000 power outages in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Rhode Island had the most, with 14,000 customers without power, according to a storm hotline set up for the media.

NStar did not report any power outages on a storm hotline the utility also had set up for the media.

Officials were not predicting widespread damage because the storm was expected to move swiftly through the area, and tides were expected to be lower than average. Still, officials from National Grid and NStar said they were monitoring the storm and both companies noted that they had as many as 1,000 extra workers on call. Crews were expected to be out repairing any damage early today.

The poor weather disrupted at least a few events this weekend. Performer Jimmy Buffett did his best to reason with hurricane season, pushing up his show at the Comcast Center in Mansfield to 3 p.m. yesterday so that revelers could get home before the worst of the storm hit.

In Provincetown yesterday morning, rain didn't keep more than 300 swimmers from taking part in the 1.4-mile "Swim for Life." Later in the day, dozens of yachts gathered at the starting line for the Great Provincetown Schooner Regatta. However, a "Paint the Town and Regatta" event for artists aboard the ship The Portuguese Princess was canceled.

"Rain and paint don't really mix," McKinsey said.

Kathy McCabe of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Ben Paulin contributed to this report. Tania deLuzuriaga can be reached at deluzuriaga@globe.com.

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