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Nor’easter cripples area towns: Petersham suffers 100 percentage power outage

  • Downed limbs from a large pine tree on Harvard Avenue remain tangled in utility wires Thursday morning.  —Athol Daily News/Deborrah Porter

  • An large tree on the property at 497 Pleasant St., at the corner of Edward Street, Athol was ripped from its roots during the evening storm that swept through the Tool Town Wednesday into Thursday. —Athol Daily News/Deborrah Porter

  • Banners outside businesses were ripped to shreds in the high winds of the Nor’easter that moved through the area Wednesday into Thursday. —Athol Daily News/Deborrah Porter

  • This tree at 497 Pleasant St., pulled from its roots, dropped away from the power lines Wednesday night. —Athol Daily News/Deborrah Porter

  • This large tree pulled from its roots rests on a stone wall following a major storm that swept through the Athol area Wednesday. —Athol Daily News/Deborrah Porter

  • A large tree was downed by high winds on Spring Street in Athol Thursday. The scene was repeated in many locations in the general area, causing scattered power outages and roads to be temporarily impassable. —Submitted/Dee Wheeler

  • It was unseen who the Good Samaritans were who moved and cut this tree branch that the storm had apparently knocked down on Sanders Street in Athol, but the sound of a working chainsaw was heard coming from the area just before daylight. Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

  • Wellesley Street in Athol was just one example of many roads throughout the area that were covered with nature's debris blown about and knocked down by the nor'easter. —Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

  • A homeowner assesses the damage from a fallen tree on North Orange Road, Thursday afternoon. —ADN / Julie Cunningham

  • Parts of the roof from the former Legard's Warehouse on South Street was blown off near the road. —Athol Daily News/Deborrah Porter

  • A large trees was blown on power lines in the area of Athol Road, Royalston. —Greg Vine

  • A motorist takes a chance and drives under a pair of towering trees leaning on power lines on Athol Road,  in Royalston Thursday. —Greg Vine

  • A utility pole was sheared off during the rain storm overnight at Pleasant and Doe Valley Roads in Athol. —Town of Athol

Published: 10/17/2019 4:03:17 PM
Modified: 10/17/2019 5:18:37 PM

ATHOL — As a Nor’easter roared through the area Wednesday, bringing with it gusting winds and pounding rain through the overnight hours, trees were ripped from the ground, utility poles snapped, basketball hoops, trash bins and Halloween decorations tossed about like toys, and debris was scattered everywhere. Thursday morning the National Weather Service issued a wind advisory that included Orange and Northern Worcester county until 6 p.m., and warned the potential for scattered tree damage and power outages would continue.

The breaking dawn revealed a thick, slick layer of autumn leaves blown off trees and broken branches and limbs littered the roads, making driving tricky for those who ventured out. At 4:25 a.m. the Athol Fire Department had issued an advisory through the Code Red system town-wide reaching residents by text, email and landline urging extreme caution due to several trees and live wires down throughout multiple areas of town.

Athol Town Manager Shaun Suhoski reported that a large number of toppled trees and snapped utility poles “left several swaths of town without power and limited access due to road closures.” He said, “As of noon (Thursday), nearly 24 percent of Athol’s electric customers were without power. Athol’s critical care facilities including Athol Hospital and local nursing homes were not impacted.

Athol Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Joseph Guarnera is leading local response efforts in direct coordination with the Athol Police Department, Department of Public Works, National Grid, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and including neighboring communities. Local officials are discussing the potential for co-located shelters if needed. Anyone needing emergency services can dial 911 to reach the town’s public safety dispatch center. The Chief also cautioned motorists to avoid areas with downed power lines, and citizens to ensure any generators are located away from the residence as carbon monoxide is a silent killer.

Chief Guarnera said that all power in Athol is expected to be back on by 11 p.m. Saturday.

Schools in the Athol-Royalston School district were closed Thursday as area highway department crews headed out to clear roads blocked by numerous downed trees and power lines. A group of National Grid trucks was seen gathering at the former UTD parking lot early Thursday morning.

Narragansett Regional School in Templeton and the Phillipston Elementary School were open as usual.

Sherry Berube at the Petersham Town Hall reported that Petersham Center School was closed, and the town is the only community with 100 percent power outage. She said crews were out dealing with 15 road closures, multiple broken poles and wires down, and priority was being given to public safety in regard to on-going restoration efforts. “This will be a multi-day event,” said Berube, noting service is being prioritized in the Athol, Monson and East Longmeadow areas. She said once the roads are opened, priority will be given to those with critical needs.

Latest reports from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency indicate that there were 19 communities with more than 20 percent of their populations without power. Residents are urged to phone 1-800-992-0656 to report outages. If a live wire is suspected, people are urged to report it immediately by calling 1-800-462-9852.

Clear cut crews, line crews, and forestry crews are out in force.

A resident with a summer home on Packard Pond traveled out to see if there was any damage and reported that trees were down everywhere, but had been cut though enough for vehicles to pass. Other areas around the pond were completely blocked.

A caller on Ridge Avenue reported construction debris and other materials covered her backyard.

Ed Conkey, Jr. of Carpenter Road said Thursday morning that at least eight utility poles were down from Carpenter Road to the end of White Pond Road and was told that they would be out of power for a couple of days.

Department of Public Works Superintendent Douglas Walsh and Assistant Superintendent Richard Kilhart were busy tending to storm-related calls and could not be reached for comment. DPW customer service representative Marie Croteau said Thursday morning that most of the reports received were for trees and wires down. Uprooted or knocked over trees were reported on Riceville Road, Conant Road, Doe Valley Road, New Sherborn Road, White Pond Road, and Cummings Road where three large trees fell. A pole was damaged on Doe Valley Road and a pole at Batchelder Road and Pleasant Street was sheared off and hanging, she said.

Scattered power outages were reported including on Harvard Avenue, where a large tree fell, pulling wires down with it. King Road residents were also without power.

Sgt. Nicole Morrell of the State Police Office of Media Relations said on Thursday that they hadn’t received any reports for the North Quabbin region but were notified about a few trees down in Worcester Country.

Attempts to call several local businesses in Athol and Orange were answered by recordings of “temporarily unavailable,” or “the call cannot go through,” or there was no connection at all.

Anna Ciglar, manager of Orange Saws on Eagleville Road said she’s had an influx of people coming into the store for chain saws and new chains to clean up trees and branches. She said as soon as she arrived at the store she posted a message on Facebook that said, “Storm damage? Come see us for chain saws, leaf blowers and new chains to assist you in cleaning up from the storm.” She said she was getting calls asking, “are you open?” and “do you have power?”

Aleesha Watson of Athol Cinemas 8 said, “we lost power sometime in the night, but we are up and running now.”

Dave Flint of Orange reported a pole snapped in half at the intersection of Athol Road and Main Street in North Orange, a transformer that was on the ground “looks like it burnt to a crisp” and “trees and wires everywhere.” He said Creamery Hill Road and Ward Road were blocked. Driving down Wheeler Avenue, he had to “zig-zag back and forth” around the debris. Referring to the damaging October 2011 Nor’easter, Flint, who has lived in Orange for more than 30 years, said, “this is far far worse than that. All of Orange looks like a war zone. You’re constantly driving over things.”

“We’re here,” Cathy Savoy, Executive Director of the Athol Council on Aging, said. The Athol Senior Center at 82 Freedom St. will retain its normal hours, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. She said they’ve received “mostly positive comments from the seniors,” and for anyone who needs shelter or assistance, “we are here to respond with appropriate referrals.”

Savoy said if the Town Manager makes a decision to open the senior center as a shelter, “we’ll avail ourselves to assist the community.” The phone number for the Senior Center is 978-249-8986.

National Grid was reporting that the total number of customers affected in Massachusetts was 131,284 of 1,331,068 served.

The following area outages were reported at press time:

Athol – 5,697 customers without power

Barre — 2,466

Erving — 406

New Salem — 517

Orange — 4,011

Petersham — 644

Phillipston — 916

Royalston — 694

Warwick — 466

Wendell — 486

Winchendon — 4406

National Grid stated that crews are deployed and assisting with damage and restoration efforts in Massachusetts. Their first priority is responding to emergencies, opening roads and restoring critical locations, such as hospitals and nursing homes. Customers are reminded to never touch downed power lines and always assume they are carrying live electricity. Downed lines can be immediately reported to National Grid at 1-800-465-1212.

The AccuWeather center stated the storm strengthened at a fast enough pace into Thursday to be classified as a bomb cyclone. For a storm to meet bomb cyclone criteria, the barometric pressure has to fall at least 24 millibars, or 0.71 of an inch of Mercury, in 24 hours.

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