SALEM — For the first time in memory, the “Vacancy” sign is up in Witch City on Halloween.
As of yesterday, there were rooms available at the Hawthorne Hotel, the Salem Waterfront Hotel, the Amelia Payson House, The Salem Inn, the Henry Derby House, and almost every other guesthouse and bed-and-breakfast in the city.
“I’ve never seen it before,” said Juli Lederhaus, general manager of the Hawthorne Hotel, which had more than a dozen Halloween vacancies yesterday. “I’ve never seen this kind of wholesale cancellations.”
The reason, of course, is Hurricane Sandy. The storm that blew through here Monday forced some guests to leave early and prevented others from flying or driving here.
Although that’s a blow to the hotels — and to the guests who may lose money or have to alter plans — large crowds are still expected here today.
The weather is such a concern that Destination Salem, the city’s tourism office, sent out an email yesterday reminding visitors that all attractions and restaurants are open today and that other events are going on as scheduled.
The one exception may be the closing fireworks, which will depend on wind conditions tonight.
For police, it’s business as usual.
“I have prepared for what I think is probably going to be a pretty crowded Halloween,” said police Capt. Brian Gilligan, who is in charge of public safety on Halloween night.
There will be 150 officers here from Salem and surrounding communities, motorcycle and bike patrols, K-9 units and mounted patrols, and tactical forces.
“I’m leaving things the way they are,” Gilligan said of the police presence. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”
The twist to today’s celebration is the sudden vacancies at local hotels and guesthouses due to Sandy, which made landfall as a tropical storm in New Jersey on Monday and cut a broad swath across the East Coast.