By Kathy McCabe, Globe Staff
An eerie silence fell over Salem on Tuesday, where many tourist attractions remained closed, and tour buses from the Mid-Atlantic region, hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy, cancelled group tours to the city.
"It's a slow day," said Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem, the city's tourism office. "It's the not the level of activity we would expect on Oct. 30."
Cancellations have left several vacancies at Salem hotels and inns for Halloween night. "The silver lining is that there are rooms available to say in Salem on Halloween," Fox said. "That never happens."
On Tuesday, trolley rides, walking tours, harbor tours, theatrical performances and museums were among the closed sites. Customers were scarce at vendors selling fried dough, apple crisp and other fast-foods on Salem Common.
City work crews removed fallen branches from the common. Property owners blew soggy leaves from sidewalks. The slow day surprised some visitors.
"There are no lines anywhere," said Steve Hopple, a preacher and a postal worker from Blair, Nebraska, visiting Salem to celebrate his wife's 50th birthday. "It's kind of nice, because you don't have to wait. But I thought there would be more people around."
Out-of-state tour buses that usually park around the common were no where to be seen. Several tours from Connecticut, New Jersey and New York rescheduled visits to the Salem Witch Museum until early November, said Stacy Tilney, the museum's communications coordinator.
"They're still coming, but just later," Tilney said Tuesday, as a handful of visitors gathered for a 1 p.m. tour of the museum that tells the story of the 1692 Salem Witch Trials.
The museum will be open until midnight on Halloween, typically its biggest day of the year. "We're still expecting good crowds," Tilney said.
Fox said Salem is expecting as many as 40,000 people to visit Salem on Halloween. Information about events and accommodations can be found on the website, www.hauntedhappenings.com. Street dances, a beer garden and other outdoor events will be held as scheduled. A final decision on fireworks, scheduled to end festivities at 10:15 p.m, won't be made until Wednesday morning.
"The decision really comes down to wind conditions," Fox added.
The Salem Ferry has cancelled service from Boston to Hingham. Fox urges people to take the MBTA commuter rail, which has added special Halloween trains. "Even if people drive to Beverly or Lynn or any train station, they can get here easier by train," she said.
Most streets around downtown Salem are expected to close by 5 p.m. But Salem police could decide to shut them earlier, depending on the crowd, Fox said.
The street closing schedule is below:
Washington Street closed from New Derby to Bridge Street.
Essex Street from Barton Square to Union Street
Derby Street from Lafayette Street to Congress Street
Brown Street closed at New Liberty Street. Second backup closure at Howard Street
Lafayette Street closed from Derby to Front Street
Hawthorne Blvd closed from Derby Street to Essex Street
Washington Sq. West closed from Essex to Brown Street
Washington Sq. South closed
Washington Sq. North closed from Brown to Winter St
Winter Street at Bridge Street closed to inbound traffic
Williams Street at Bridge Street
Congress Street closed at South Harbor Garage, traffic detoured to Wharf Street out to Derby Street. Derby Street inbound traffic detoured to Little Hawthorne Blvd., right on Essex Street (Traffic direction reversed Little Hawthorne Blvd.)
Lafayette St and New Derby Street remain open to traffic to and from Riley Plaza.