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Nantucket's New Hospital Built to Handle Big Storms


WCAI has partnered with the Cape Cod Times to bring you the series, "Are we ready? Examining hurricane preparedness on Cape Cod and the Islands."

WCAI's Kathryn Eident talked with Cape Cod Times reporter Cindy McCormick about how the new Nantucket Hospital is being built with storms in mind. 

Eident: Morning Cindy thanks for talking with us.

McCormick: Good morning Kathryn.

Eident: The new Nantucket Cottage Hospital has some special features to make it hurricane proof. Talk about some of those features.

McCormick: Okay, well first of all, they don't use the term 'hurricane proof,' they're using the term 'hurricane resiliency and survivability'.

So, this hospital is going to have all kinds of bells and whistles, but one of the major things about it it's going to be built to survive hurricanes of up to 185 miles per hour. And this is being built according to Miami Dade specifications, and that's above what Massachusetts requires for survivability in its buildings.

It's got some kind of unusual features it's got like. First of all, the footings are massive. There are five-feet-by-five-feet cement reinforced with mesh. They had to order the mesh off-island chain to crews on Nantucket in preparing these pillars. It's going to have no basement, which is interesting. It will be built on a slab that's we know waterproof and weatherproof. That's just in case of flooding, like why have a basement that can be flooded? Even though they're on kind of a high point on the island, there could be flash floods and other occurrences.

Eident: Tell me more about putting some of the equipment needed to run the hospital on the roof.

McCormick: It actually looks like a very charming building on the island--it's shingles and it looks like it has a pitched roof, and dormers with the pitched roof, but most of that is actually just for there for cosmetic purposes, and it's actually flat roof. The boiler room and two very powerful generators will all be shackled to the roof, and the steel frame of the building will absorb that weight.

Eident: It's interesting that they think it's safer to have that type of equipment on the roof instead of just inside the building somewhere

McCormick: Right. I said,"well what happens, if we have like an incredible hurricane?" They said these mechanical weigh tens of thousands of pounds and they're not going to blow off. They said if they blow off, then the island has bigger things to worry about than what the hospital is going to survive or not.

Eident: What are some of the other features they're building into this hospital?

McCormick: Another factor is they have an Andersen Stormwatch windows, which have been subjected to ballistics tests and flying objects. And these have more fasteners than usual. And, in this case, the Anderson people have educated them on how to install them and how it works. And you can open and close these windows, but they're supposed to be like that latest thing on hurricane design.

Eident: So what will the cost be for all of this?

McCormick: Well, it's all being built with philanthropy and donations basically, and it's $89 million and that's for the cost of also moving some of the buildings. It's got like a little campus there with these little single buildings, and some of them are being all moved around. And, that's also the cost of moving those buildings, and the permitting process. I asked Dennis Patenaude, who is Facilities Manager there, "how much more this will cost to make it this hurricane resilient building?" And, he said they really can't sort that out, because from the very beginning, they were bidding on this building to be resilient to hurricanes. And, this was a mandate of Partners Health Group, of which they are a member.

Eident: What is the timeline for this project?

McCormick: They're planning on moving into a new hospital by year's end, or shortly thereafter. And, this hospital is being built cheek-by-jowl with the old one;it's literally like a few feet apart in some places. And, so then after the new hospital is built, they will move to existing Nantucket Cottage Hospital, which has been in place in that location since 1957.

Eident: You can read more and see photos on the Times Web site Cape Cod Times dot com. Thanks so much for explaining what you found out Cindy McCormick. Have a great day.

McCormick: You, too.

This transcript has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity. 

See more of the Cape Cod Times' hurricane series, in collaboration with WCAI, here.

Kathryn Eident was the Morning Edition Host and Senior Producer of News until November 2022.