Home Fire News Nor’easter knocks out power to thousands, firefighters scramble to clear downed trees

Nor’easter knocks out power to thousands, firefighters scramble to clear downed trees

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Cynthia McCormick
Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.

Cape Codders and public safety personnel spent Thursday cleaning up after a nor’easter that caused a mess on the roads by bringing down trees and power lines. High winds and rain overnight Wednesday into Thursday caused flooding, tossed boats ashore, disrupted ferry service and led to power outages to as many as 45,000 Barnstable County customers. Schools in two of the hardest-hit towns, Falmouth and Barnstable, were closed because of impassable streets.

The highest gusts occurred in Provincetown, with one of 83 mph at 1:53 a.m. followed by a blast of wind at 90 mph 21 minutes later, according to the National Weather Service in Norton.

Wind gusts of 78 mph and 72 mph were reported in Mashpee and Harwich, respectively.

“The strongest winds have departed, but it’s still going to be very windy today,” National Weather Service meteorologist Hayden Frank said Thursday morning, with gusts of 40 to 60 mph projected. A high wind warning was in effect for the Cape and Islands until 6 p.m., with a wind advisory until 9 p.m.

A storm is considered to be hurricane force when it reaches sustained winds of 74 mph, Frank said.

More than 26,000 Cape customers were still without power at 7:17 p.m., with 44,814 customers without power in eastern Massachusetts, according to an Eversource power outage map. Falmouth had the most outages on the Cape at that point, with 5,728. On Martha’s Vineyard, where the entire town of Aquinnah was without power at one point, the total then was 826.

Service restoration was stymied by continuing winds and the need to clear downed trees and wires first, according to the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee. Out-of-state utility crews were expected to arrive Friday to aid in the effort.

The committee had no plans to activate a regional emergency shelter as of Thursday night.

The wide-ranging storm knocked out power to about 223,000 customers in Massachusetts and 500,000 across New England, according to emergency management agencies.

With daylight, the Coast Guard Station in Woods Hole began receiving reports of boats that had broken loose from their moorings overnight, Petty Officer Maxwell Stuckey said.

One of the biggest trouble spots was Falmouth, where downed trees lined busy roads, including downtown.

Downed trees and power lines pretty much blocked all access into Woods Hole, Falmouth Deputy Fire Chief Tim Smith said at noon.

“We can get through with emergency vehicles if we have to, but the roads are closed to the general public,” Smith said.


Access problems to Woods Hole had been ongoing since about 1 a.m., he said, and it was expected to remain tough going until the winds died down.

The deputy chief had to bring in extra personnel to cover emergency calls.

“We had to tie up a lot of resources with downed lines,” he said. “We’ve been busy with live lines, arcing wires and small tree fires.” Fire alarms were going off in buildings as power was restored, causing firefighters “to be dragged in different directions.”

High tide wreaked havoc on waterfront areas. “A lot of the beach roads at Menauhant and Surf Drive are covered in sand and debris,” Smith said. “The DPW is using front-end loaders to clear those roads.”

The Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Steamship Authority and Hy-Line Cruises suspended ferry trips to the Islands on Thursday. Sections of Route 6A were closed, Falmouth Hospital was on generator power and the Barnstable Superior and Probate courts were unable to open.

The Dukes County Regional Emergency Communication Center lost power early Thursday, and the backup generator malfunctioned, leading to 911 calls being routed temporarily through Barnstable County, according to a statement from the island sheriff’s office.

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©2019 Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.

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