Whether Hurricane Jose takes actual aim on SouthCoast is still to be determined.
But while meteorologists remain uncertain of an exact path, they are sure of one thing: Jose will trigger strong rip currents and unsettled coastal water as soon as this weekend.
With school underway, the post-Labor Day activity at SouthCoast’s harbors has already started to decline. The presence of a hurricane could accelerate boat owners winterizing their vessels.
“Because we have a hurricane barrier, everyone wants to come to New Bedford,” Ed Anthes-Washburn, executive director of the Harbor Development Commission, said Friday. “It’s important to note the only safe place is outside of the water.”
When Hurricane Irene barreled up the East Coast six years ago, Anthes-Washburn noted vessels within 100 miles of New Bedford tried to take advantage of the hurricane barrier. He said the port was filled to capacity.
Irene reached the Northeast prior to Labor Day. Jose is likely to threaten fewer recreational boats because the exodus from the water has already started.
"For parents (who are boat owners), they’re usually gone right about now. They’ve got kids and sports and school,” Mattapoisett Harbormaster Jill Simmons said. “You’ve got the people who really love the late summer and early fall. September is some of the best boating around. Then you have the diehards. They’ll stay, unless you have something lingering like Jose.”
At this point in the year, it’s not practical to pull a boat from the water without winterizing it, which causes some boat owners to wait for the last minute with the unpredictability of the path of hurricanes.
“They don't’ want to lose the rest of the season because the season is short,” Simmons said. “Especially, this year, who knew we’d have three Aprils?”
Last minute can lead to stressful situations in the harbors.
“You compress what usually happens over two months to four to five days," Anthes-Washburn said. "It’s pretty wild.”
Simmons said the protocol for a mass exodus is the roads around harbor would be made one way. Trucks would enter the boat ramp one way and exit the other.
“The boatyard works their tails off so nobody is left behind,” Simmons said.
New Bedford city officials and Mayor Jon Mitchell are already tracking Hurricane Jose. Two tropical depressions linger behind Jose.
“We are keeping an eye on it. We’re taking some preliminary preparations through the weekend just in case,” Mitchell said. “We’re thinking along those lines because we must. We’ve been through these problems before.”
Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT.