Nantucket Cottage Hospital makes decisions everyday about the safety of our patients, our staff and all who work for and visit our hospital. The planned Boston Pops performance last Saturday evening was no exception.
Decisions related to the Pops concert were made with primary regard to both the safety of concertgoers as well as those who make the event possible. To stage an event on Jetties Beach takes hundreds of people and physical equipment, including the multi-level stage with complex sound and lighting gear. This setup comes with substantial electricity requirements. Rain is an issue, in and of itself, but in this case our challenges were compounded by the threat of high winds and lightning.
Our safety monitoring began early last Friday, when the trained crew and trucks loaded with scaffolding arrived to build the stage. This is the same schedule we have operated on for the previous 15 years, one that limits the closing of Jetties Beach and the restaurant for only a day or two. Under normal circumstances, these highly-efficient crews quickly build similar stage productions in venues that include Fenway Park, Gillette Stadium and the Comcast Center.
To create our staging for the Pops concert, crew members must work high above the ground: the setup requires hundreds of feet of wiring and lighting equipment to be installed high on the stage scaffolding. Those who were on island Friday afternoon and through the night will appreciate the extreme weather conditions the crew encountered that night. Those conditions were accompanied by a rare and unusual tornado watch that included Nantucket. As a result, several times during the night, the crews were pulled off the structure in order to protect them from the dangers of thunderstorms with high winds and the threat of lightning.
As of 7:30 a.m. Saturday, when hospital representatives met with concert production professionals, a severe thunderstorm had just passed over much of the island, with lightning striking several island locations. The parking lot at Jetties Beach was severely flooded, and the crew was 12 - 18 hours behind their usual timeline for the production.
Weather forecast from multiple sources indicated that thunderstorms along with high winds and lightning were likely to continue throughout the day. Weather radars showed a broad swath of heavy thunderstorms bearing down on the island.
The storm delays created a situation in which crews would have had to work at an unsafe pace, in a wet and risky environment, to complete the stage on time. Laying heavy electrical wiring at that point would have put the crews in more potential danger, especially if an oncoming storm hit the island.
Under those circumstances, we decided that our safety imperative and the trust of our community required us to cancel this year's Boston Pops. We were mindful of recent weather-related tragedies in outdoor venues where large crowds had gathered for entertainment or sporting events.
In our effort to "make lemonade out of lemons," we sent the orchestra's meals to several of Nantucket's senior activities and living facilities. Sandwiches and snacks prepared for volunteers were sent to Nantucket's police and fire departments. For concertgoers who had purchased dinner with their seating, we invited them to tents already put up on the beach for the planned pre-concert reception, a decision made late in the day to salvage what we could of the night.
Thank you to those many individuals who worked through the night on Friday, trying against overwhelming odds to pull this off in its entirety. Thank you also for the generosity and understanding of all of the ticket holders and others who lent their support to this effort.
Here at Nantucket Cottage Hospital, we focus everyday on the safety and wellbeing of our community. We are unwilling to compromise that standard. The lives of you and your family are our greatest concern.
We look forward to a wonderful 17th annual Boston Pops on Nantucket next year, under storm-free skies.
Margot Hartmann, MD, PhD
President & CEO, Nantucket Cottage Hospital