Tri-town recovers after 'worse than expected' storm

Mar 8, 2018

A strong nor'easter wreaked havoc on the tri-town on Friday, March 2, blowing 65-mph winds, downing trees and power lines, and leaving more than 1,000 people without power in its wake.

First-responders from each town reported trees blocking roadways and on houses and cars. Wires fell like dominoes, some sparking electrical fires after becoming entangled in branches.

Marion Police Chief John Garcia told the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday that at one point, trees blocked off the lower east side of town and parts of Converse Road from emergency vehicles, and it took a bogged-down Eversource 10 hours to respond.

Garcia was not pleased with meteorologists.

"I'd like to find the person who said the storm wouldn't be bad," he told selectmen. "As a matter of fact, it was much worse than anticipated."

Garcia said that during the storm, seven cruisers, as well as the town's shellfish cruiser, had been deployed to answer calls. Marion Police answered 138 calls over the three days of the storm, 49 related to wires and trees down, 10 for arcing wires, and several others for related storm damage.

Marion was the most severely affected in terms of power loss. On the morning of March 3, 100 percent of Eversource customers in the town were without power. By the night of March 3, Marion's power loss had been reduced to 97 percent, while Rochester came shortly behind with a 92 percent power loss. Mattapoisett fared by far the best of the tri-town—at the peak of power loss, 30 percent of residents were without power.

By the morning of March 4, the number of Rochester residents without power had fallen to 67 percent; while 61 percent of Marion residents remained without power.

Power wouldn't fully return to the tri-town until late Tuesday, March 6. While Eversource was able to restore Marion's power fully by late Monday, Rochester and Mattapoisett residents needed to wait another day to see their electricity return.

Garcia praised the efforts of the Marion Department of Public Works, whose response, he said, "was tremendous."

Interim Director of Public Works Jon Henry said DPW workers had been out on a trash collection run when the storm kicked up. "About three-quarters of the trash blew away before we could get to it," he joked.

As soon as it became clear that the storm was intensifying, Henry said, trash collection was suspended, and DPW workers instead went to help clear roads of trees and debris.

"We leave removing trees from wires to the power company, even if it's an emergency, as it's just safer that way," he explained. "But DPW employees helped remove fallen trees and blowdown debris like branches to keep the roads clear."

As strong winds continued through the weekend, traffic lights in Marion remained dark as residents drove in search of gas or to charge electronics at the warming shelter opened at Sippican School.

In total, Marion Fire responded to 213 calls—"two months worth of work in three days," said Marion Fire Chief Brian Jackvony said. The department averages 110 calls per month.

In a few cases, Jackvony said, the Fire Department assisted in rescuing residents who were trapped in their vehicles when trees tumbled over on top of them. No one was seriously injured.

The Town of Marion will have to repair equipment that was damaged due to the storm response, though, including the town's new ambulance.

"It was in Wareham, and a pedestrian in town was actually blown into its path in the storm. The driver slammed the brakes on, the doors were thrown open, and the wind took the doors," Jackvony explained. "Luckily, it's just repairs and nobody was hurt."

Officials in Mattapoisett and Rochester also reported dozens of storm-related calls.

The nor'easter also prompted an uptick in carbon monoxide emergencies. Mattapoisett Fire responded to a handful of alarms during the weekend, each caused by the use of generators. Officials reminded residents to ensure that alarms are in working order and to keep generators outside of homes.

Cleanup continued through mid-week—luckily, another predicted nor'easter largely missed the tri-town, bringing only minor wind gusts and about an inch of snow.