Cleanup efforts continue following microburst in Warwick

  • Access to Laurel Lake, on the border between Warwick and Erving, has been closed off. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • A fallen tree that bent a guardrail along Northfield Road in Warwick as a result of Thursday’s microburst. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Firefighters work to clear Wendell Road in Warwick on Thursday afternoon. Several neighboring departments were called in to help clean up storm damage. STAFF FILE PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Published: 7/27/2022 4:44:09 PM
Modified: 7/28/2022 9:29:12 AM

WARWICK — Despite the town enduring a microburst that caused severe damage to private residences, traffic impediments and a day-long power outage, Fire Chief Joe Larson said he does not expect Thursday’s storm to financially devastate the town.

Lasting less than an hour, storms quickly moved through eastern Franklin County and the North Quabbin region, leaving more than 1,000 residents in Erving, Wendell, Warwick and Orange without power. Warwick’s outage, Larson said, lasted from 3:14 p.m. Thursday until 5:14 p.m. Friday. A tornado warning had also been issued by the National Weather Service, but the warning expired with no reports of a twister forming.

The National Weather Service confirmed the brunt of Thursday’s damage in Warwick was caused by a microburst, with wind speeds reaching up to 90 miles per hour. A microburst is a “particularly strong downrush of winds, which often results in straight-line wind damage that is less than 2.5 miles in length,” according to a post on the National Weather Service’s Facebook page.

“The National Weather Service surveyed damage yesterday in the towns of Warwick, Orange, Athol and the northern part of New Salem. The conclusion was that a microburst, with wind speeds estimated at 90 mph, occurred in Warwick,” a public information statement from the National Weather Service’s Boston office reads. “There were other more scattered reports of tree damage in Franklin and Worcester counties from the severe thunderstorms that moved through the area. Based on the radar data and type of damage that occurred, winds in those regions were not as strong.”

In Warwick, the most extreme damage was centered on Wendell and Hockanum roads, as well as numerous trees downed and poles snapped around Laurel Lake and the campground located there. The microburst, which lasted for 10 minutes, had a maximum path width of 300 yards and traveled 2.1 miles before dissipating.

“There were more than a hundred trees downed, mainly pines, that were snapped mid-way up and at the top, with others uprooted,” the National Weather Service’s statement reads. “Trees fell in the same direction, from southwest to northeast, indicative of straight-line winds.”

Larson said Warwick avoided potentially lofty expenses due to much of the damage being directed toward phone and power lines. Repair in such cases, he said, falls upon National Grid to pay for. The energy company was able to restore power quickly everywhere in town except near Laurel Lake.

“For the amount of damage to those lines, it was phenomenal,” said Larson, who was “very grateful” that National Grid could prioritize Warwick.

Speaking during cleanup efforts on Wendell Road Thursday afternoon, Larson said there were no reported injuries caused by the storm, but that a house and a garage were both hit by fallen trees. He later said the bulk of damage to property was inflicted upon private residences. While town buildings remain largely in good shape, Larson said “it can take years to get things cleaned up” on private property.

“I think, long-term, it’s going to take a while for people to get their personal property cleared up,” he said.

Larson voiced frustration regarding the consistency of weather-related disasters striking the small community. Last year, storms in July caused Warwick around $1.5 to $2 million in damage, Town Coordinator David Young estimated at the time.

“It’d be more concise to tell you what roads didn’t get damaged,” Young said previously.

“Unfortunately, it seems like something that keeps happening each year in town,” Larson said. “They’re very short storms, but they’re causing a lot of damage.”

Thursday’s storm, though, caused damage “that wasn’t nearly as bad as the flooding” caused by last year’s storms, according to Larson.

“This storm, to my knowledge, won’t cost the town anything like the floods in town,” he said. “It wasn’t a really big expenditure.”

Now, aside from residents tending to their homes, cleanup largely centers on Laurel Lake on the border between Warwick and Erving, as well as the adjacent campground, which Larson said “sounds like it got hit the worst out of anywhere.” The state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which oversees the property, “has implemented a closure of Erving State Forest ... while the agency addresses storm damage,” according to a statement released Tuesday afternoon. All camping reservations have been canceled and will be refunded.

“I heard it’s up in the air with how long it’s going to take them and whether they can reopen for the season or not,” Larson said.

In spite of the challenges associated with the cleanup effort, Larson voiced confidence in his department, which he said would likely be working overtime.

“We’re prepared,” he said. “It’s what we do.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com. Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.


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