Just when I was getting comfortable that our summer would be rated a 10 in the comfort scale-- not as hot as the rest of the country or even New England, and no sign of the devastating drought of last year, the skies turned dark at midday yesterday and the meteorologists took over regular programming on Boston TV to warn us of severe weather entering our pretty little corner of the world on Cape Cod.
Cindy Fitzgibbon of WCVB had guided us through the F-1 tornado that touched down in Dennisport and Harwich on July 24, 2019. There she was again, along with A.J. Burnett yesterday, at nearly the same time of day and year.
By the time it was over, aside from road flooding and heavy downpours and the occasional downed tree, the Cape was spared serious destruction. However the National Weather Service did confirm an F-0 tornado hit Marstons Mills, traveling from Evergreen Rd. to Joe Thompson Rd. at 11:52 am.
My own yard fared well. I had a delicious and drenching two inches of rain that collected in my garden rain gauge over a 90 minute period. It was most welcome as my lawn continues to recover from turning to complete straw last August once outdoor watering was banned in Harwich during the drought.
For a review of the more destructive 2019 tornado that felled thousands of trees on the lower Cape, including two large oaks in my yard, here is the video I took from my living room window that day. Unfortunately I bailed for the basement just before the trees crashed down.
Tornado "experts" left comments that this wasn't a real tornado, or they complained it wasn't as fierce as those in Oklahoma. Yeah I know our tornadoes don't rival those, which is why I live on the Cape and not there. Hehehe.
A Harwich Port homeowner expressed relief today that no one was injured when a pickup truck left Gorham Rd, at a high rate of speed and crashed into his garage. The accident occurred around 2 pm. The homeowner was not at home at the time but said his wife was, away from the crash scene. She was not hurt.
Witnesses say the truck driver was speeding and did not stop at Bank Street, instead careening across the road, through the front yard of the Bank Street home and crashing into the corner of the garage. That garage appears to have suffered extensive structural damage.
The homeowner told me the truck landed on it's passenger side. It appeared to be a commercial landscaping truck with a trailor in tow. The driver initially refused to go to the hospital.
Bank Street at Gorham Rd. is normally filled with traffic and pedestrians, particularly in the warm summer months. Today though, on a chilly overcast day, few people were interested in a stroll. Neighbors remarked how fortunate it was that no one was hurt. Even the homeowner said his car would typically be parked in the driveway in front of the garage but today it was out of path of the out of control vehicle.
There is no dollar amount on the damage to the two story garage.
Reformed Sun Gods and Goddesses from the 1960s and 70s get reminded of their prior status every time they see a dermatologist for a skin checkup. Most people I know have had something cut out of somewhere by now. What looked like a sexy golden tan back then, looks like wrinkles and skin cancer now.
n contrast, young people today were raised with sunscreen, or simply spf-- sun protection factor. Many of them wear it every day, like brushing their teeth. Sunscreen prevents DNA damage that ultraviolet rays inflict on our skin. Some products, manufactured in Europe, contain DNA repair enzymes that actually correct past damage.
The best sunscreens are not made in America. We're decades behind other countries with the UV filters the Food and Drug Administration will allow. That's because sun filters are considered a drug here, and only the largest companies with enormous research and development divisions can afford the lengthy testing and approval process required to pass FDA scrutiny.
We haven't developed a new sun filter in more than 20 years, while other nations which consider sunscreen a cosmetic ingredient, formulate top-notch sunscreens that don't sting the eyes or feel heavy on the skin. Filters like Tinosorb S and M, Mexoryl SX and XL, and Uvinul A Plus have none of the discomfort of our heavy products. Last year, a new filter was developed in Spain-- a leader in anti-aging sunscreens-- UVmune 400, 10 years in the making and patented by L'Oreal, which filters extra long UVA rays. But you won't find it in America. The FDA doesn't allow that one either.
Our sunscreens include zinc and titanium dioxide which block UV rays with a greasy, opaque white film on the skin, as well as the chemical filters: Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, and Oxybenzone, all of which sting the eyes like crazy.
The result of all this is the typical American doesn't wear sunscreen each day. Those who do, import European and Asian sunscreens, which increases sunscreen use, but hurts the bottom line of American companies.
It's difficult to say when and if this will change. In the meantime, summer is coming. And there's a world of better sunscreens beyond our shores.
An adventurous North Atlantic right whale swam the entire length of the Canal last weekend, bringing all boating in the waterway to a stop.
Scientists with the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown say the juvenile entered the canal from the Buzzard's Bay side and swam nearly the entire 17 mile length before turning around and coming in again. Another whale briefly entered the canal from the Cape Cod Bay side. The drama played out over 21 hours last weekend.
Charles "Stormy" Mayo directs the Right Whale Ecology program at the Center for Coastal Studies. He says the whale that swam the canal was surface feeding which put it at greatest risk of propeller strikes. Strikes and fishnet entanglements are the biggest threat to the species.
There are an estimated 340 North Atlantic right whales in existence on the planet and numbers decline every year.
As you can tell from this post and last, the Cape Cod Canal is a favorite feature of mine. I enjoy walking the canal path and celebrating the burn of calories, by replenishing them-- and then some, with a meal at Fisherman's View restaurant in Sandwich. Dollar oysters, anyone?
I also happened to time a visit to the scenic Railroad bridge parking lot last fall when the bridge actually descended and a dinner train rolled by. This place will never get old.
I hope you enjoy this 30 second "flight" under the Bourne Bridge in summertime.
Late last summer, my son Charlie came to visit me from his home in Tampa, Florida. While driving around the Cape, I showed him one of my favorite little spots, the parking lot at the base of the Cape Cod railroad bridge at the end of Bell Rd. in Bourne.
There are great views of the Cape Cod canal and the many boats and ships that ply its waters. You can see the Massachusetts Maritime Academy on the other side, and on Cape side, you'll see people fishing all day.
On the day we were there, we heard a loud bell and suddenly the railroad bridge slowly began to descend. We were about to witness the suspended section of track meet the sections on each side of the canal for a dinner train to pass by.
Here is a demonstration of how that works, along with some facts about the bridge, from our friends at the Cape Cod Times.
I often joke that they should just start direct flights between Cape Cod and Naples, because it seems the many Snow Birds here wind up in that pretty town on the Gulf Coast. When I lived in Syracuse, some of my friends had homes or had family members with homes on the east coast, near West Palm Beach. But low-key Cape Codders seem to prefer the equally chill West Coast of the Sunshine State. Only today, there is nothing chill about Florida. The entire state is being run over by Hurricane Ian.
As of this writing the eye of the storm is just beginning its slog over land. We're seeing the first images of the damage, but there is much suffering ahead. My heart goes out to all in its path.
Thanks to all the dedicated meteorologists and the technology at their disposal, there was ample warning to assess the risk and decide to stay or go. My son in Tampa respected the order to evacuate and is currently riding out the storm in a Gainesville hotel. Luckily he has power and internet and he's able to work remotely from his room. Best of all, he is safe. We hope there's a house for him to return to.
So much water in Florida, so little out west and in Massachusetts. With all we've figured out, we haven't yet found a way to "bottle" the surplus for distribution where it's needed.
For now, I'll watch the news like everyone else, and hope our friends and family in Florida make it through this nightmare.
In a measure pitting neighbor against neighbor, towns across Cape Cod increased their residential watering restrictions and encouraged people to report violators after three hot summer months produced little to no rainfall.
On August 24, Cape Cod moved to Level 3-- Critical Drought, according to Mass.gov. The only level higher than this is the Level 4, Emergency Drought.
Water restrictions have been in place for many towns since early summer, when officials noticed the underground aquifer had not reached normal levels for the last two years. Early restrictions allowed lawn irrigation on odd or even days. By August 1st, Harwich banned irrigation and sprinklers altogether, allowing hand-watering of plants only in the overnight hours, and again from 5 till 9 pm. Other towns followed suit.
With the Drought now at critical levels, all outdoor watering is banned in Harwich until further notice.
To people younger than 65, it probably seems like the Massachusetts Turnpike, or the Mass Pike, as it is commonly known, has always been there to move cars and trucks from one end of the state to the other.
As a young child, I recall my dad telling my sisters and I how difficult a project it was, since crews had to blast enormous hills made of solid granite to keep the highway from having too many ups and downs. Those long vertical lines running up and down the rocky embankment, were the drill tubes into which the dynamite was dropped. That all seems taken for granted now.
A vintage documentary on the construction of the pike popped up in my youtube feed the other night. It's lengthy, thorough and fascinating. I think the biggest surprise for me was how risky were the practices back then. Footage of enormous slabs of rock being dropped into a dump truck bed didn't seem real, or....legal? In fact, several men died constructing the highway.
Check out the shots of the road, newly completed and in use. Where is everybody? Could the planners of the 1950s ever envision the volume of traffic we'd see on that highway now? In 2020, it took a pandemic to reduce traffic to the level of volume that was commonplace 65 years ago.
The next time you travel the Mass Pike, consider the sacrifice in lives, and the engineering that made this artery possible today. And don't forget to exit! Today, I-90 begins in Boston and ends in Seattle, Washington, the longest of the interstate highways, according to Wikipedia. That is one, long road.
Enjoy the video
Like many other markets across the country, there has been a crush of real estate activity on Cape Cod. And some homebuyers are finding success. For so many others, there's a trail of tears in the wake of multiple failed attempts at having an offer accepted. There are simply too many buyers for the few homes on the market.
Check out this video newly released by the Cape Cod and Islands Association of Realtors on the status of the market right now.
Keep in mind, even though times are tough for buyers, sales are going through. If you'd like help strategizing how to be successful in this challenging market, give me a call. I can help.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "New Realtors Pile Into Hot Housing Market. Most Find it Tough Going", reported what every real estate agent in the country already knows. There are currently more Realtors than there are houses to sell, but it isn't stopping people from getting their sales license and trying.
The National Association of Realtors reports there are currently 1.45 million agents in the U.S., and 1.04 million homes on the market. That's 1.4 homes for every agent hoping to sell it. Most homes involve a buyer's agent and a listing agent, so technically there should almost be room for all. But it doesn't leave a lot of sales per agent.
And the situation on Cape Cod? It's worse. Way worse. Buyers have shed a trail of tears all over the Cape, finding the home they wanted already under contract to someone else, or outbid by a mile in an escalating war among buyers for the critically few listings available.
As of today, there are 2,561 licensed real estate agents on Cape Cod, according to the Cape Cod and Islands Association of Realtors. We're all going after the same 451 homes and condominiums listed for sale. That's 5.8 real estate agents for every property.
?Of course, if you're a buyer or a seller, you sense this already. Open Houses are often a hybrid of both "open", but also requiring an appointment with the listing agent. It makes for chaos in the house when we're all still trying to keep a physical distance from one another.
What will break the logjam? More sellers choosing to cash out and sell. But they have nowhere to go either. They face the same tight supply. The key will be for someone who doesn't need another place on the Cape to let their home go. That's a tough sell as the weather warms and we all look forward to the season of beaches and ice cream cones and Cape Cod Baseball League.
If you're a buyer, hang in there. It's a frustrating market for sure. But someone has to get the next home that hits the market, I say why not let it be you? You'll want to keep in mind, the list price is just a start. Homes are going for above asking price this year. There aren't many bargains anymore.
And if you're a seller, it would be my pleasure to do a comparative market analysis of your home so you can get an idea of the value.
Sales on the Cape are up 26 percent so far this year, new listings have plunged by 46 percent. That's causing a spike in pricing--up a whopping 30 percent Capewide, year to date.
Perhaps this will be the year you buy in or cash out too.
I was at the computer in my lavish executive office at home, a.k.a. the kitchen peninsula, when I heard what sounded like a large dump truck rolling down the thoroughfare nearby. Then the floor shook. And stuff rattled in the breezeway. It was over in five seconds and I knew that was no dump truck.
I went to the bottom of the stairs and called my son's name. "Christian?" I said, wondering if my 27 year old had felt it on the second floor". "Earthquake!" he replied with laughter.
I jumped onto twitter.
I learned I wasn't losing it.
New England media first reported the earthquake, centered at the mouth of Buzzard's Bay in southern Massachusetts, measured 4.6 on the richter scale. Later it was revised to 4.2, and finally to 3.6, the final word from the U.S. Geological Survey.
According to the USGS website, New England has had scores of minor earthquakes through the decades. Sunday's event was the second strongest recorded, bested only by a 3.7 temblor in 1994.
I have felt three small earthquakes in my lifetime, one in Syracuse and another on the Cape, both more than ten years ago. There were no reports of significant damage in any of them.
But it adds to the repertoire of natural events we weather on the Cape, along with blizzards, tornadoes and the occasional hurricane. Cape Cod is no day at the beach. Or actually, it pretty much is.
In this covid-19 year, time plays tricks with me. Spring was a bust, with everyone locked down and indoors, disinfecting the mail, and suspicious of all who passed who could possibly be spreading germs and not even know it. What was supposed to last two weeks stretches on to this day, seven months in.
Summer dawned with the start of warmer weather, leaves on the trees and people breaking free of their four walls to take walks on the beach, and in the villages and hiking trails.
One of the biggest developments for me, was the expansion of outdoor dining on Cape Cod. This region so famous for it's beauty and scenic vistas, has a dearth of restaurants with seating outdoors. Covid forced a change that was overdue anyway. It took some creative redesign of parking lots and lawns, but determined restaurateurs met the challenge, and according to an article in the Cape Cod Times, they reported that while business was down this summer, the financial hit was not as bad as was expected. We'll see if colder weather completely scuttles the progress.
You surely heard the media coverage of the white-hot real estate market this summer. Indeed, that was reality on the Cape. Long established agents never saw anything like it--- properties besieged by potential buyers with multiple offers, all above list price and a bidding war unlike anything before. The median sale price in Barnstable County is $490,000, an increase of 14 percent from one year ago, according to the Cape Cod and Islands Association of Realtors.
I was on the losing end of some of them. I came in second on a property with 27 offers turned in on the first weekend. My client offered far above list price and still we didn't get it. Happily, we did settle on another lovely home and as of this writing, my buyers are in love with their new place in East Dennis. My buyers and sellers also had several success stories this summer and autumn. It's a tough market for buyers but there, but there are strategies I can employ to increase the odds.
But for every success story, there are at least 20 motivated and eager buyers who are still looking. That's because potential sellers aren't budging. For all the reasons buyers want to be on the Cape now, including a new category of buyer who wants to relocate to the Cape sooner than they anticipated because they can now work from home, sellers are hanging onto their homes.
The official word from the Realtor's Association is it's too soon to know if this will create permanent changes in the nature of year-round life on the Cape. The zany months of July and August here are usually balanced by quiet solitude in January and February. If previously summer-only residents continue to work from home, we'll see more shoppers in the grocery stores, patients in the waiting rooms and more traffic on the roads. Even the beaches will have more visitors in winter.
We will see if a vaccine reverses the work-from home trend. Personally, I believe a significant percentage forced to work from home in this covid year will be allowed to do so permanently, or for at least part of the time. I do think we're at the cusp of a more enduring population on Cape Cod year round.
I hope you and your family are staying safe, that you're finding ways to stay connected in this strangely distant time, and that whatever your line of work, you have enough of what you need. This won't last forever.
Happy Mother's Day everybody. I hope you've all managed to be emotionally close even if physically distant. Me, I've heard from my four grown children and my heart is filled.
And speaking of hearts, (smooth transition, eh?) it was 50 years ago that Bobby Orr of the Bruins scored one of the most memorable points in Boston sports history when he slid the puck into the net to cap a four-game sweep of the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup final. In overtime, no less. For a 13 year old teenager growing up in Worcester, my friends and I fell completely in love.
Bobby Orr, with his boyish good looks-- kind of a cross between Brian Caan and Robert Redfield, a bashful charm, and super-human abilities, offered something for everybody. Men wanted to be like him, older women wanted to mother him and young women and girls wanted to marry him.
Fast forward a few decades and the Worcester teenager moved to Cape Cod to sell residential real estate. As a realtor I got an invitation in the mail inviting real estate agents to a "meet and greet" at the Ridge Club golf community in Sandwich. To help promote sales at the club, we had the opportunity to meet one of the owners--- Bobby Orr.
Would I attend? Do you even need to ask? Apps, wine and...Bobby Orr. Oh my word, what could be better? Bobby was a complete gentleman--supremely gracious and patient with the long line of realtors waiting to get a photo and a few words with him. I sat down next to the Bruins great for my one minute while a fellow realtor grabbed a photo with my cellphone. I never thought I could put meeting Bobby Orr on my bucket list, but here he was anyway. Cross that one off the list. An unexpected bonus for my life.
Until I watched the news tonight, I hadn't realized it was 50 years ago that Orr scored that goal, made iconic by a photographer who captured the precise second that Orr flew horizontally above the ice in celebration, in the now famous "Flying Bobby" shot. 50 years.
So Happy Mother's Day once again. And thank you Bobby Orr, for reminding us five decades on that you stole the Stanley Cup hopes of the St. Louis Blues, and you stole the heart of a starry-eyed teenager in Worcester.
Hello Friends, It's been awhile. I'm holed up at home along with 297 million Americans instructed to do the same. By tomorrow, more states will come online with stay-at-home advisories or orders. Every number associated with the COVID-19 pandemic gets bigger. Things get more restricted, more risky, more deadly by the hour. The day when this is expected to turn a corner gets pushed out farther and farther.
Just three weeks ago, officials told us to avoid gatherings of more than 250 people--it wasn't wise to pack restaurants, bars or spring break beaches. Today, those venues all closed, we wonder if a single weekly trip out of the house for groceries will be the one that gets us. It's giving us the opportunity to become reacquainted with the bottom of our freezers for the first time in I-will-never-admit-to-you-how-long a time. That long. But the impact of the coronavirus on all of our lives has been swift.
We have plenty of time to think. As a former television journalist, I realize I still have an insatiable appetite to know what's going on. I'm fascinated by this pandemic both as a citizen trying to keep herself and her loved ones healthy, and also as a newsperson completely riveted by the depth and coverage of this as a news topic. The cable stations and online newspapers are up all day while I manage my residential real estate business virtually. Only after the supper dishes are done do I reach my saturation point and turn to a mindless British TV murder mystery or some makeup tutorial on youtube. Now that is mindless. And somehow, so necessary.
Some of my friends find all the coverage stressful, but I find it oddly comforting to know what the experts have to say minute by minute. I've been reading about this mysterious form of pneumonia in the New York Times since early December. There were first person accounts and videos of how deadly this was, how hospitals in China were so overwhelmed they were building a new one from the ground up in just two weeks. There were reports the virus was plunging China into recession and that the virus would spread around the world. It was all there for the knowing and for taking action. And only three weeks ago did our government choose to listen and do something about it. So, along with fear, I feel fury. Our inaction, our inexcusable lack of preparation, our failure to produce and stockpile basic medical supplies, is killing people.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. To match the fear and fury I clutch to signs of hope and humor. The nightly 7 pm demonstrations in apartment windows and on the streets of New York as grateful citizens applaud the health workers at shift change choke me up. Every time. It never gets old.
The efforts of ordinary people mobilizing to do what they can to make things better for the first responders, and the millions of workers we might have taken for granted who now risk exposure every day to supply us with groceries, staff the pharmacies, process our packages and deliver our mail. I don't venture out much lately, but whenever I do, I thank each and every worker I encounter for getting to the job each day in order to help us.
And the wine memes flying around on social media. Priceless. Thank you. Thank you for every one of them you produce and share.
The business of real estate continues, albeit with some changes. Some of them I honestly hope will continue after the crisis is over. I'll write more about that very soon.
May you all stay healthy and safe. Whether you're fighting to save lives in the hospitals, fighting crime or fighting fires, or you're just staying at home to not get infected and spread the virus to others, I appreciate you.
Every home tells a story, and on Cape Cod the stories are often, shall we say, unique?
At first glance, the residence at 182 Gorham Rd. in Harwich Port appears to be like many others, in the architectural style that shares its name with the region-- Cape Cod. But this one began it's life in Randolph, Mass., 75 miles away, and it came to the Cape, piece by piece, over several trips, in the bed of a pickup truck.
After World War II, as Boston's population and main railroad line expanded, the little house in Randolph stood in the way of development. Town officials put out the word that for one-dollar, the house was for the taking. The one stipulation was it would have to be moved off-site.
Contractor George Ellis of Cape Cod saw an opportunity. Just back from fighting the war, Ellis dismantled the house, piece by piece and over a span of two years, he trucked it one load at a time, to Gorham Rd. in Harwich Port.
Painstakingly reconstructed, the charming little Cape was whole again in 1948. But Ellis and his wife wanted a larger kitchen, so a spacious addition was constructed that same year. "We were peeling some wallpaper off one of the bedrooms and saw the year 1948 written in pencil on the plaster wall", said Charlie Helliwell, the current longtime owner. "That's how we know when the house was finished".
The age of the original Randolph home is not known. With the steep and narrow staircase to the second floor, a design element long banned in home construction, it's likely the home is older than 100 years-- classifying it in real estate terms as an antique. But, "I guess you can't really call this one an antique since it's no longer in its original form", says Helliwell. In fact, the splatter-dash floors, characterized by wide pine planks painted and then "splattered" with other colors to form decorative dots, were new in 1948, even though that paint treatment was commonly done in homes many decades before.
Eventually the home was passed down to George's son Babe Ellis. Babe and his wife lived there for decades more.
Charlie and Karen Helliwell have owned the home since 1980. As the decades wore on, the house grew again, with an impressive addition housing the master en suite, two-car garage and deck, which overlooks nearly two acres of private grounds in a natural setting. The Ellis' are never far from 182 Gorham Rd., -- it was Babe's son Harry who constructed the addition for the Helliwells.
"It has such an interesting history", Charlie says of his home which is currently on the market for sale. "We've enjoyed every minute of living here, and we know the new owners will too."
182 Gorham Rd. is offered by Kinlin Grover Real Estate at $1,250,000. Contact myself, or Jane Englert at 781-789-3300 for a private showing.
With fear of coronavirus forcing "social distancing" around the country, real estate brokerages are creating policies to protect everyone involved in buying and selling a home.
The National Association of Realtors recommends the following protocol for Open Houses around the country:
We are in the early stages of this public health emergency, and there is a ton of misinformation flying around. Suffice it to say, we should be more concerned with germs than ever before. Shaking hands when greeting one another is no longer recommended, and we are supposed to stay outside of a 3-foot range of those near us.
I'll continue to monitor how the coronavirus is affecting the real estate industry and write articles when appropriate. For now, I hope everyone stays healthy.
Ever since Zillow.com launched in 2004, real estate in America has never been the same. Information about every home in the country is available from this one website on the internet.
In my opinion, 90 percent of this has been a good thing. Consumers no longer rely on a real estate agent to show them what listings are available for sale-- Zillow shows them right from their own computer, allowing people to eliminate homes in advance and leaving the best for their tours. But there is one controversial aspect about Zillow that hasn't changed in 16 years-- the zestimate.
The "zestimate" is zillow's estimate of value. Using a proprietary formula from an aggregation of public records and other factors, Zillow assigns a dollar value to every home.
In cities where housing stock is similar in style and age, like Phoenix, AZ and Las Vegas NV, the zestimate is pretty accurate. But on Cape Cod, where homes have been added to the landscape sporadically for hundreds of years, the Zestimate struggles. I once listed a rare pond front home with 250 feet of exclusive waterfront, and by comparing that home to the sold price of others in the area that had no waterfront, the zestimate for the property was $200,000 too low. With every showing, I had to explain to buyers why the zestimate was so far off. It was a challenge.
You see, buyers trust Zillow. They know it's a third-party site, at arms length from both sellers and real estate agents who make money off the sale of a property. Zillow earns nothing for the these sales-- except it has entered the ibuyer trend, a subject of a future blog. Mostly, Zillow makes money by selling advertising space to real estate agents.
Which brings me to the reason I'm writing about the zestimate today. It seems that one of the co-founders of Zillow, Spencer Rascoff, is selling his L.A. home, for $24 million dollars. And the zestimate on his property? $16.1 million-- a difference of $8 million dollars. Oops.
Interestingly, the zestimate bumped up significantly today to $21,844,000 as word of the discrepancy went viral. Hmmm.
Zillow acknowledges the difficulty in assigning a value to an ultra-luxury property like Rascoff's. There isn't another one like it.
We know what that's like on the Cape. We can have a 17th century home sitting next door to a manse constructed just last year. How does an algorithm compare the two? It can't. That's the point.
So when you check out zestimates on Zillow, keep this in mind. Even the co-founder of Zillow knows what it's like when the popular website misses the mark by a mile. Take that zestimate with a grain of Cape Cod beach salt.
Have you ever walked past a lawn dotted with little colored flags? Each one marks the underground location of a utility service, and it doesn't matter where you go-- in every state in America, the colors signify the same thing.
In Massachusetts, no matter how small the excavation project, whether you install a new mailbox or you plant a tree or shrub, you are required by law to get your property marked first. How realistic that gardeners always call Dig Safe when they move plants around in their yard? I don't know. I've not known any individual gardener who ever did that. But moving along...
The six New England states use a not-for-profit company called Dig Safe as the liason between property owners who wish to dig, and the participating utility companies with lines beneath the ground. Before you begin your project you must call Dig Safe by dialing 811 on your phone. Lines are staffed Monday through Friday from 6:00 am till 6:00 pm. Make sure you do this at least before 72 hours, excluding weekends and holidays, prior to the dig. Dig Safe will give you a ticket number as proof of your effort and they'll notify the utility companies to come out and flag your lines.
Utility companies are not required to participate with Dig Safe, although the vast majority do. In the event one of your providers does not belong to Dig Safe, you'll have to notify that company yourself. Here is a list of member utility companies.
And here are the various colors and what they mark. Note that white flags signify where the proposed dig will take place.
For more information on Dig Safe, click here. And for a brief look at how Dig Safe works, enjoy this Dig Safe Video.
Summer is nearly over and there is no denying it. Things were different this year. Last October's fatal shark attack of 26 year old boogie-boarder Arthur Medici after two shark attacks on victims who survived, changed everything. We used to tout the statistical improbability of an attack as we splashed in the surf, and now we announce there's no way we'd swim in the depths we used to.
Officials have been forced to take action. When poor cell phone coverage delayed the emergency response to the shark attack, landline phones were installed on the east-facing beaches. Royal purple flags featuring white sharks flap in the breeze at the beaches where lifeguards now have special training to stop bleeding.
One of the more visible signs of the change is in the sky. Those planes that used to trail ribbon banners advertising beer and nightspots? Now it's spotter planes which relentlessly scan the shoreline looking for sharks who get too close.
Personally, I'm happy to adjust my expectations of what the beach can provide for me, and to join in the excitement of the restoration of the ocean ecosystem. Grey seals, the great white shark delicacy, are back in huge numbers after federal protection. While some advocates call for killing the seals, most Cape Codders accept that nature will control the population-- with the sharks.
The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy leads the effort to fund research and educate the public. Their "Sharktivity" app is enormously popular, with alerts pinged to cell phones when a shark is spotted and a beach is closed for an hour. My phone has been blowing up this month-- peak activity for sharks on the Cape.
The New York Times featured a story this week on sharks on the Cape and included a video, below, of local shark expert Greg Skomal and his team of researchers searching for sharks off Chatham. It's hard not feel their enthusiasm.
Remember, no shark ever walked onto a beach to attack someone. We are safe here. The land is for us, the water is for them. In between is that fuzzy area where we long for a dip in the refreshing waters of Cape Cod, and coming home again to tell about it.
Where climate science is concerned, the data don't lie. June was the hottest year on record. July is on track for that as well. We had three confirmed tornado touchdowns on the Cape last week, two in Yarmouth, and a third, the fiercest, in Harwich where downed and damaged trees are everywhere you look in town. Prior to this, there were only three tornadoes ever on the Cape.
Earlier this month Dr. John Holdren, professor of Environmental Science and Policy at Harvard University, came to the Cape to let us know climate change is already here and disrupting life on Cape Cod. He said the Cape is losing 30 acres per year to increasingly severe storms and to rising seas.
Our friends at The Association to Preserve Cape Cod and Lower Cape TV, filed this report after Holdren's address at the Chatham Community Center:
As Holdren reminds us, we don't have to accept that the climate change must occur. We can fight it. We can become involved in organizations and support businesses and candidates for public office who are committed to mitigating the causes of a warming planet.
To find out more about The Association to Preserve Cape Cod and to sign up for it's newsletter, click here. It's a start.
I've witnessed my share of extreme weather-- blizzards in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New York, a hurricane on the Cape, straight-line 130-mph winds in Syracuse and now my first tornado.
As you may have heard, Yarmouth and Harwich were hit with a "strong" F1 tornado with winds of 110 mph yesterday. Not since 1977 has the Cape had a confirmed twister.
It all happened so fast. Late Tuesday morning I got an alert on my phone that warned a tornado was imminent. Power to all of Harwich went out soon after that. Within minutes, the sky turned an odd, bright, twilight yellow-blue, a fact that foretold trouble ahead. That's how my dad described the sky before the Worcester tornado struck in 1953. Then the tops of the trees started swaying.
I went to my eastern living room window, and at 12:20 pm, started recording.
OK by now I was pretty scared and wondering if a tree in my front yard, out of view at left, was going to come into the house. You can hear trees and branches breaking off. So I put the phone down and went to my basement stairs, ready to go down in the dark. But my old news instinct kicked in and I went back to the window. In that brief break in the center of the house, I had missed witnessing stuff come down. I started recording again.
In an unlikely setting in North Harwich, lies a winery run by a passionate chemistry major in college turned eye doctor, turned vintner. Dr. Frank Puzio owns and operates First Crush Winery in a business park of light industry and warehouses. What First Crush lacks in topography-- the rolling hills of the Napa Valley, the finger lakes of upstate New York, even the backdrop of grapevines and colonial homes in Truro-- it makes up for with verve. Puzio is passionate about the intersection of art and science in a bottle of wine. In fact, once you walk through the door, the barrels, the natural wood on the walls, the grand marble table imported from Italy, all make you forget about the corrugated steel outside. Few wineries in the country-- even those in the wine-growing regions, grow all the grapes they need to produce their blends. Puzio imports his grapes from California and crushes them on-site in North Harwich.
First Crush Winery was the scene last night of a wine-tasting and tour for Cape Cod realtors who refer their clients to RMS Mortgage and Betsy Kelly, esq., our hosts.
Extra points for the cheese and charcuterie trays, brought in from Wegmans off Cape. Those of us who formerly lived in New York state enjoyed that familiar taste of home we can't find anywhere near Cape Cod.
Dr. Frank shared his knowledge about winemaking, offered up tastings and full glasses-- yum!-- and patiently answered all our questions. It was a novel, delicious and educational evening.
So a special thanks to Attorney Betsy Kelly and to RMS Mortgage reps Eric Steenstra and Toni Rubino-Constantino for cooking up a fun time.
First Crush Winery offers tastings and tours. And if you'd like to learn a little more about their winemaking process, check out the video below.
I hosted some dear pals from New York City this weekend. One of them admired the woven nylon rope doormats I have outside my home. They're called Cape Cod Doormats. Original, right? You find them in all the hardware stores and home centers on the Cape, but you can also find them online, at capecoddoormats.com.
Along with onion globe lamps, blue hydrangeas and weathered cedar shingles, Cape Cod doormats last years and years, and are "required" for a true Cape Cod look for your home.
To see how these mats are made, by hand, one at a time, right here in Hyannis, check out this video by WCVB-TV's Chronicle.
While catching up on twitter this morning, I happened upon a post from "Syracuse Nostalgia" . The user had uploaded yet another newscast from the archives of WTVH-TV. This particular program was the 5:00 pm news with my friend David Muir.
I anchored hundreds of newscasts over my 27 year career as a television journalist but don't remember this particular one. It was a routine weeknight newscast among so many others. But I was struck by several things. First of all, 1999? Are you kidding me? That was yesterday and also 20 years ago. It doesn't seem possible.
I remember when I looked like that. I remember that pale pink silk jacket and muted navy silk shell you see on camera, and the short little matching pale pink skirt I was wearing, that you couldn't see. I remember my crisp Princess Diana haircut, a version of which every professional woman wore at the time. TV anchor women in particular fell into line with that style. Watch the news today and you'll see they now wear a new hair uniform-- longer with loose beach waves.
Check out the graphic over my shoulder. It's Hillary Clinton-- also with a Princess Diana haircut, exploring a run for the U.S. Senate. Now that seems like a long time ago. When viewed through the trajectory of her life-- First Lady at the time of this newscast, to U.S. Senator from N.Y., to U.S. Secretary of State and ultimately to the first woman running for President, I'm really aware of the passage of 20 years.
But back to the newscast. It was anchored by myself and David Muir who is a Syracuse native and who began his career at WTVH. Like Hillary Clinton, his career path was extraordinary. He soon went to WCVB in Boston and then to ABC News where he remains today, as the anchor of ABC World News Tonight. In his time at the network, David has interviewed Hillary Clinton at least twice that I can recall. But we couldn't foresee all that when this newscast was recorded in 1999.
There is a health segment in this newscast. In it, reporter Donna Adamo sites the news that Americans were living longer than ever before. 20 years hence, that's no longer true. Citizens of other countries enjoy ever longer lifespans, but Americans are going in reverse.
Even with the passage of 20 years, much remains the same, especially when you look at the newscast. Local TV news sets haven't evolved that much really. They're still lead mostly by a man and a woman at the desk, who "toss" with pleasantries, to the meteorologist whose green screen and computers are a few short feet away.
Local news includes a few stories of that community, but plenty of national and world news as well. And way back then, we were encouraging people to go to our TV station website. We could see how important this new method of communicating information would become.
In the 20 years since this newscast aired, my four little children grew up. Beautifully, I must say. I got married and divorced, lost both of my parents. The recession hit-- there went my career. I got a dog, then another. They both grew old and died. I realized my goal of returning to my native New England and living on Cape Cod. I began a new career in real estate. My Syracuse pals cheered me on and I made new friends too. I bought a little place in Florida to escape the cold. All in 20 years. Wow.
Now, want to catch up on the day's news? At least, from Syracuse, N.Y. on a routine day in June, 1999? With thanks to our friends at SyracuseNostalgia.com, here you go: