Boston braces for its turn with Hurricane Irene
A hard rain fell Saturday on Boston, vexing the efforts of the Red Sox to get in a double-header with the Oakland Athletics before conditions worsened and quickly creating hazardous driving conditions in the city.
An immediate flash flood warning was issued for several counties west of the city, where rain associated with Hurricane Irene fell at a rate of 2 to 3 inches an hour.
And that was many hours before the full force of the storm was expected to hit New England on Sunday morning.
By 6 p.m., a more general flood watch was in effect through early Sunday for more than 20 communities along the coast and inland to Worcester.
With a hurricane warning in effect, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency on Friday evening. On Saturday, local news outlets reported that he warned residents to take the hurricane seriously.
“This is not a time to panic," Patrick said at a news conference. "But it’s a time to be prepared."
Patrick said bridges along Cape Cod and the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth would be closed if forecasts of sustained winds of 70 mph proved true.
Along the cape and other coastal New England areas, boat owners pulled their craft from marinas.
Mayflower II crew members in Plymouth on Friday expressed concern about the hurricane, noting that if the more than 200-ton ship -- a reproduction built in the 1950s -- came free of its moorings, it could streamroll smaller boats in its path.
At Old North Church in Boston, officials decided early to take no chances. The church, open daily this time of year, will be closed Sunday as a precaution.
The historic site, where the church sextant hung two lanterns on the signal of Paul Revere in 1775 to warn rebels that the British were coming by sea, has twice lost its distinctive steeple. The steeple fell during an 1804 storm and again when Hurricane Carol hit in 1954.
Paul Lyons, who has worked at the church for eight years, said the steeple has since been rebuilt and reinforced.
Asked whether he felt it would withstand Hurricane Irene, Lyons laughed and asked: "Are you quoting me? I'm not an architect."
A colleague joked that they would know where to point a finger if things went awry.
Red Sox fans had made their way to Fenway Park for a noon start against the Oakland Athletics -- more than hour earlier than scheduled -- only to see the game twice delayed by rain before the home team won 9-3.
Officials hoped to get in a double-header, anticipating conditions too poor to play on Sunday, as originally planned. Despite reports of terrible conditions in the infield, the Red Sox and A's were underway again by about 7 p.m. Fans at the game tweeted boasts about how full the park remained despite the approaching storm. "This is strangely some of the most fun I've ever had at Fenway. #RainingCatsAndSox #RedSox." read a tweet by one stalwart.
-- Megan Garvey in Boston
Photo: A historic reenactor at Copp's Hill Burying Ground in Boston takes shelter under a modern umbrella during a downpour on Saturday. Credit: Steve Carney