Hurricane Edouard slowly brushed past Martha’s Vineyard yesterday, battering the coastline with fierce, gusting winds and torrential rains, causing property damage, power outages and rudely interrupting the plans of thousands of Labor Day travelers.
The Vineyard was spared the brunt of Edouard - the eye of the hurricane rumbled east of Nantucket early yesterday afternoon - but its blustery, fitful grip upon the Island was long, gloomy and occasionally intense.
The first major winds and rain from Edouard arrived late Sunday afternoon. While the hurricane subsided several times after sunrise yesterday, the back end of the storm whipped and lashed the Vineyard one last round in the early afternoon before departing by early evening.
The highest official wind speed from the hurricane was 80 miles per hour, clocked at 1:30 p.m. at Tower Hill in Edgartown. Rainfall from the hurricane, also recorded in Edgartown, totaled 4.09 inches.
No injuries were directly tied to Edouard, but a Milford, Mass. man suffered a severe spinal cord injury Saturday while bathing in heavy hurricane surf at South Beach in Edgartown. Charles Hince, 26, was flown by emergency helicopter to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where he is listed in critical condition. 
Because the hurricane took a northeast route, the eastern end of the Vineyard, particularly Edgartown and Chappaquiddick, received Edouard’s sharpest punch. Downed trees and power lines were common, as was erosion along the northeast shoreline. A sprawling, aged horse chestnut tree fell on the face of the Charlotte Inn in Edgartown, unraveling a jungle of power lines. Caroline, a 35-foot sailing yacht, was beached by wind after ripping from its mooring in the inner Edgartown harbor. Thick, heaping piles of seaweed covered piers outside the Chappaquiddick Beach Club, and erosion at Wasque was considerable.
Elsewhere on the Island, damage was scattered. Rural roads, particularly along the North Shore and Lambert’s Cove, were buried in tree branches and leaves. Tisbury police evacuated elderly residents from Havenside Apartments when a tree branch ripped down power lines. Tursiops, a 30-foot sloop, crashed into a rock in the West Basin of Gay Head. A tree pancaked a Chrysler on Circuit avenue in Oak Bluffs.
Power outages occurred in all six Island towns. At 11 p.m. last night, more than 15 per cent of the Vineyard remained without electricity; the hardest hit towns were Edgartown, Chilmark and Tisbury, said Commonwealth Electric spokesman Cindy Angus.
The heavy winds, rain and threat of downed trees and power lines made automobile driving hazardous for the entire day. Driving bans were enacted throughout the Island beginning on Sunday evening; the last was not lifted until 3 p.m. yesterday.
Overall, the impact and damage of Hurricane Edouard were modest in comparison to its predecessor, Hurricane Bob, in 1991. But after early predictions had Edouard barreling straight into the Vineyard, local people were grateful for the near miss.
“That’s a pretty good breeze. It’ll take your door off your car,” said Herbert Hancock, a Chilmark Selectman. “It wasn’t anything like what we had in ‘54. We’re getting out of this one pretty easy.”
Still, the hurricane seriously disrupted the travel plans of thousands of vacationers here for the Labor Day weekend. Last night, the only way to leave the Island was by air: Martha’s Vineyard airport resumed both commercial and private service beginning in the early evening.
But water transport was another story. Because of heavy seas, the Steamship Authority discontinued service at 6:30 p.m. Sunday and did not run a single ferry boat yesterday. 
The decision to cancel service - and postpone 400 cars with reservations and at least 250 standby drivers - was made around 5 p.m. yesterday by Authority general manager Armand L. Tiberio.
“It wasn’t even close,” Mr. Tiberio said. “The conditions weren’t satisfactory due to high winds. We didn’t have any basis to think there was going to be immediate improvement in the future.”
The massive buildup of travelers and vehicles is expected to cause a crush in downtown Vineyard Haven beginning early this morning. The SSA planned to run its first vessel, the MV Islander, at 5 a.m. today and may operate late into the evening, if required.
“We expect to go well into tomorrow night,” Mr. Tiberio said.
The canceled ferries - and the evacuation of several major hotels in Edgartown, including the Harbor View Hotel and Harborside Inn, prior to the hurricane - left many people without a place to wait out the storm.
 Many of these displaced travelers spent the night in emergency Red Cross shelters established in several Island schools and community centers. More than 140 people spent the night at the Edgartown School shelter; 80 people did the same at the Tisbury School.
Red Cross volunteers said the shelters were organized and peaceful throughout the storm. But by yesterday afternoon, many travelers were frustrated, tired and eager to go home. 
“It was okay at first, but then I got sick of being around all these people,” said Ryan Church, 16, of Providence, who spent the night in the Tisbury School gymnasium, where people played cards, read and slept.
Throughout the morning and afternoon, Island roadways were patrolled by dozens of police and civil defense volunteers from all six Island towns. These groups combined to clear the roads and prevent unsafe passage; in Edgartown, a patrolman sat in his car on South Summer street and ordered pedestrians away from downed power lines.
“These are live power lines over here,” he said firmly. “Turn around and go home, unless you want to get electrocuted.”
Still, pedestrians were strolling around the Island towns by late morning, inspecting damage and searching for hot coffee. Madeleine Becker and Beth Donnelly of West Tisbury were upset to find Alley’s General Store closed for the storm, but in Oak Bluffs travelers were delighted when the popular Linda Jean’s Restaurant opened for late breakfast and lunch.
By the early evening, wooden boards and duct tape were removed from storefronts windows and businesses reopened. In Edgartown, there was an hour and 45 minute wait for a table at the Newes Pub; in Oak Bluffs, a packed house watched a screening of the hip British film, Trainspotting.
Last night, it was uncertain if Fran, a hurricane currently hovering in the Caribbean, will join Edouard in slogging past the New England coastline. Current projections have Fran headed toward the Georgia coast.
But Hurricane Edouard, now a tropical storm dissipating at sea, will be recalled on Martha’s Vineyard as a rude Labor Day weekend visitor, loud and blustering and painfully slow to leave.
“It really ends the summer with a bang, doesn’t it?” asked Reg McGhee of Detroit, while waiting to leave at the Steamship Authority terminal. “It’s just an exclamation point to the whole season.”
Gazette reporters Yvonne Guzman, Mark Alan Lovewell, Marcus C. McGraw and Julia Wells contributed to this story.