Anyone who has seen the images from New York and New Jersey knows that we in Gloucester and Massachusetts are counting our blessings.
The storm that has left millions without power and thousands without a home easily could have hit us harder than it did. Even so, 5,000 households lost power in Gloucester at the storm’s peak.
On Halloween, 700 households in the city still lacked power – making this a long three days for those residents who still did not have lights, refrigeration or heat. Had we not planned ahead, we would have been one of the communities postponing its Halloween celebration.
During our pre-storm emergency planning, we went through the Halloween options before us. It was clear that, given the forecasts we had at the time, Halloween would be impacted by Hurricane Sandy. We ruled out a wait-and-see approach, and debated before- or after-Halloween scenarios.
Police Chief Campanello urged against rescheduling for a Friday or Saturday evening. Gloucester has no ordinances that govern Halloween trick-or-treating activities, unlike many communities.
For example, some municipalities set strict limits on trick-or-treating times, including basically a curfew for teenagers. Gloucester residents know that, in many neighborhoods, we will wake up to the remnants of eggs, shaving cream, and smashed pumpkins.
There was no consensus among the management team. Everyone had a different opinion about what to do. The decision fell to me and I made it without hesitation. We settled on Sunday as the best day to hold a safe, appropriate Halloween.
Other Halloween activities were going on in the city that weekend as well as a children’s party at the Rose Baker Senior Center and pumpkin carving at Art Haven.
Once the decision was made, we moved to get the word out immediately on Friday. The superintendent of schools used the “all call” system to encourage families to celebrate the tradition on Sunday. We contacted local and regional media outlets. We updated the city website.
It’s clear that the word spread. My foray into Market Basket on Sunday morning indicated that most people were aware – and most were relieved.
Looking back, the prudent decision regarding Halloween was to hold it before Hurricane Sandy hit.
This move ensured that children would enjoy an annual ritual and the city could devote its public safety resources to dealing with the storm aftermath – whatever it might bring. Also, the hundreds of families without power on Halloween could deal with their situation without the worry of trick or treating.
So, how was Gloucester’s early Halloween of 2012?
In my neighborhood, we gave out the usual five bags worth of candy. My daughter, still young enough to enjoy trick-or-treating, came home with a half pillow case full of goodies. I am grateful that it went off without a hitch and to all of the families who participated and were good sports about it.
We are also grateful for our neighbors in Rockport who welcomed our Gloucester goblins who headed there on Halloween itself. A phone call to the Rockport Police Department the following morning assured us that while there were definitely more children in town, they experienced a safe, fun Halloween.
In the midst of all of our emergency planning and response for Sandy, when it came to Halloween, the city’s primary consideration was the impact on the littlest ones in our community. We wanted to ensure they were safe yet still enjoyed a fun Halloween.
Given what happened not too far south of here, if Halloween is our only disruption, consider ourselves very, very lucky.
Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.