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Middletown 2011 Review: Weather and Environment

Events that reminded us of the dangers of the elements included a near hurricane, a fishing accident, and a coyote problem.

Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series that Patch is producing as a look back at the year.

The natural beauty Middletown is graced with as a coastal community comes with perils as well. In 2011, a storm called Irene put us in hurricane mode, and an early morning fishing accident two months later put a spotlight on ocean waves. A few other events had impact on the local environment as well.

  • Hurricane Irene: It had been 10 years since this area had to fully prepare for a hurricane (Bob), but residents went into action in late August when the National Weather Service showed Rhode Island directly in the path of Hurricane Irene. By the time of Irene’s arrival on Sunday, Aug. 28, the hurricane had been downgraded to a tropical storm, and Middletown did not take a direct hit, but high winds did so much tree damage that power was knocked out across town for more than a day.
  • Fisherman Drowns: In the early hours of Wednesday, Nov. 2, a 48-year-old fisherman from Portsmouth drowned after being swept into the water near Sachuest Point by rough waves while fishing. Rough surf made it impossible to reach Gary Mathias, a popular local chef, in time to save his life. Night fishing is popular at Sachuest Point, but the ocean’s dangers are ever-present.
  • Coyote Problem: After several years of watching the local coyote population increase, and with townspeople’s fears about coyotes attacking pets or even children, the Town of Middletown took action on several fronts: It worked with a coyote hunter, adopted best practices for coyote co-existence suggested by a team including biologists and police officers, and it enacted fees for anyone feeding coyotes directly or indirectly. A report released in October indicates the hunter killed 40 coyotes in town, but the longterm impact of the multiple measures taken by the town is yet to be seen.
  • Wind Turbine Moratorium: With many townspeople concerned about the impact pole- and rooftop-mounted wind turbines might have on safety and on the vistas in Middletown, Town Council enacted a moratorium in March 2011 on all applications for special-use permits for wind turbines, and extended the moratorium until June 2012. In the meantime, the town is eliciting opinions from townspeople via an online survey, and also is awaiting several studies from state agencies and experts.

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