Wild weekend weather halts ferry and strands passengers on Kelley’s Island

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MARBLEHEAD, Ohio - Visitors to Kelley's Island were making their way back to mainland Ohio on Monday after huge waves and high winds forced them to stay an extra night.

After wicked weather tossed the large boats for the Kelley's Island Ferry Service around like toys early Sunday, a decision was made to end service to and from the Lake Erie Island after the 10:30 trip.

That left long lines of cars and people expecting to return unable to get off of the island until Monday.

"There was lanes and lanes of traffic people running to get there, it was a madhouse for a bit," said Marissa Moody, who was staying with her grandmother on the Island.

Moody was able to board an 8:30 a.m. ferry to Marblehead on Monday, leaving her car behind on the island.

"Normally we get concerned about the conditions at NE 30, it was blowing NE is excess of 40 mph, and the waves on the buoy we look at off Vermillion was 8-9 feet so when it comes crashing over here 1st 12-13 feet crashing at the dock," said Capt. Jim Bechtel, who compared Sunday's conditions to those on Lake Erie when the area was hit by the remnants of Hurricane Sandy.

A video shot by Peggy Hassinger that was circulating on social media showed  high waves crashing over the largest of the ferry service's boats.

"We hate to leave, I don't know how many there are, 300-400 cars on the island but it's safety first," said Bechtel.

Among those forced to spend an extra night on the island were about 70 people who were there for a weekend 4-H retreat.

Mary Supina was among them.  She said her husband was able to make the last ferry out on Sunday after priority was given to people with medical needs.

"He made it out on the last boat which went out at 10:30 because he didn't bring extra meds and he's got a heart condition," said Supina, who lives in Sandusky.

Others in the 4-H group say people stranded on the island told them they were going to miss a wedding.  One of the visitors apparently missed a scheduled flight.  Many others were late getting to work on Monday.

"I was expected to be in the 34th circuit court in West Branch, Michigan because I'm an attorney so instead I conducted my hearing over a telephone conference and when the judge asked why I wasn't there this morning it was pretty unique...a pretty unique reason," said Stefani Godsey of Lansing, Michigan.

Visitors to Kelley's Island say the conditions from their perspective did not seem as bad at the island as they were at Marblehead, where their ferry docks.

But they described high winds blowing branches down, heavy rains and high seas that rose dramatically almost lifting some boats onto their piers.

"It was raining sideways, branches hitting the roof waking us up and then we found out we might not be leaving and about an hour later we found out for sure we are not leaving," said Scott Miller of Sterling Heights Michigan, who was finally able to leave the island about 24 hours after he expected to be in Detroit.

On Monday the lake was much more calm.

The ferry service was back to operating at its usual schedule.

Many of the people who saw Hassinger's video eagerly admitted even if there was another ferry leaving on Sunday they would not have wanted to get on it.