EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 30, 2012

Storm badly hurts 1, knocks out power to thousands

From staff reports
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Superstorm Sandy’s slow and steady path through the Merrimack Valley and Southern New Hampshire yesterday halted everything from commuter trains to campaigns, caused both minor road flooding and major beach erosion, and managed to down power lines and trees while lifting the spirits of many school children who saw school called off for a second day.

There was one serious injury resulting from yesterday’s hurricane. In Windham, N.H., a man was critically injured when a tree fell onto his car on Range Road about 5 p.m. The road was closed while emergency crews responded. No further details were available. In Massachusetts, there were no reported storm deaths.

As of last night, nearly 400,000 Massachusetts and 120,000 New Hampshire customers remained without power, most losing electricity in the late afternoon as the Sandy kicked up wind gusts of over 50 mph in Lawrence and 62 mph in Londonderry. Methuen had the highest number of homes without power, with 7,391 out as of 9 p.m. last night. At 4:15 p.m. yesterday, 99 percent of PSNH’s 4,900 customers were without power.

The storm took its time arriving here, but seemed to peak between 2 and 5 p.m. with some heavy bands of rain and wind gusts between 50 and 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The Methuen Police Department fielded over 45 storm-related reports from 4:30 to 6 p.m. alone, including downed trees, wires or poles on Albion, Brookfield, Center, East, High, Howe, Joffrey, Lowell, Myrtle, Pelham, Pleasant, Pleasant Valley, Prospect, Railroad, Sawyer, Wheeler and Woburn streets; Glen, Lyndale, McKinley, Merriline, Newbury, Oakland and Olive avenues; and Carriage Way, Haymeadow Road, Indian Summer Lane and Riverside Drive.

Politicians surrendered to the storm. Democratic Vice President Joe Biden canceled a rally planned for yesterday in Keene and Republican Mitt Romney’s wife, Ann Romney, called off her bus tour through the Granite State. Both campaigns urged supporters to donate money, goods or supplies for the relief effort for Sandy victims. Mitt Romney had planned to hold a rally in Milford on Tuesday night, but that also was canceled, as was first lady Michelle Obama’s appearance at the University of New Hampshire.

In the hotly contested Massachusetts race for U.S. Senate, both GOP Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren cancelled tonight’s debate.

The storm also forced the shutdown of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, including commuter rail service at 2 p.m.. Gov. Deval Patrick said he was “cautiously optimistic” that service would be back to normal or near normal levels by today’s morning rush hour.

Boston Express halted New Hampshire-to-Boston bus service yesterday afternoon and the last Boston-to-New Hampshire bus was on the road around 4:30 p.m. Service from New Hampshire-to-Boston was expected to resume at 10:30 a.m. today.

”In a 45-foot coach, you tend to get blown all over the place,” general manager Ben Blunt said.

Here is a look at what happened in your community:

ANDOVER

A large tree fell on power lines in front of 87 Haverhill St., knocked down a utility pole and shut off power for hundreds of businesses and residents in the area about 5 p.m. and had not been restored as of press time.

”We’re happily not watching TV tonight,” said David Grober, of 93 Haverhill St., who resides a couple of doors from where the tree fell. He said it was fortunate that the outage took place before winter. “We can live with it.”

Michela Stuart, who recently purchased the house at 90 Haverhill St., said she was cooking dinner when the power went out. She has an electric stove, so she and her children made do with sandwiches, she said.

”It’s a mess,” she said, looking down the street at the wires strewn across the yard at 87 Haverhill St.

Police Lt. Harry Collins said the knocked-down pole on Haverhill Street appeared to be the most serious storm-related problem in Andover yesterday, however, fallen trees closed Harold Parker and Greenwood roads and a few other streets.

HAVERHILL

There were numerous uprooted trees that knocked down power lines — leaving about 5,000 customers without power and the city with a huge mess to clean up. Mayor James Fiorentini said there were 20 downed trees in the city as of 7 p.m., along with several downed power lines.

”We’ll have crews out cleaning over the next few days or for as long as it takes,” Fiorentini said.

Around 2 p.m. a large tree in the front yard of a house at the corner of Water Street and Buttonwoods Avenue fell onto Water Street, blocking the westbound lane leading into town. The tree was removed while a police officer at the intersection of Groveland Street detoured traffic.

About 3:30 p.m., increasing winds uprooted a large tree that in turn knocked over a utility pole at the intersection of Lakeside Street and Kenoza Avenue, opposite the intersection of Concord Street. Because power lines blocked the northbound lane of Kenoza Avenue (Route 110), traffic was detoured around an island where the road meets Concord Street.

Another tree at 55 Park St. toppled and knocked down power lines. Police blocked off Park Street where it meets Chestnut Street in the Highlands neighborhood.

City Hall was open yesterday, although much of the downtown was closed, including banks and other businesses. At around 4:30 p.m. the Market Basket in Central Plaza was still busy with shoppers. Signs at the entrances noted it was closing early at 6 p.m. due to the storm. Most of RiversEdge Plaza was closed by that time, while across town at Westgate Plaza businesses were still open.

LAWRENCE

Commuters on the last train from Boston to the Merrimack Valley had an unexpected detour in Lawrence, when a an electrical transformer, wires and utility pole toppled over onto the tracks. The incident occurred just before 3 p.m. The MBTA shut down service yesterday afternoon in anticipation of the storm.

The train was headed for Haverhill but the conductor hit the brakes near the Valley Forum ice rink. Approximately 100 riders were quickly evacuated from the train and boarded onto a bus.

Near the South Common, a large tree was uprooted and fell onto Market and Osgood streets. As it fell, the tree tugged down power lines but did not appear to snap them. Large limbs also fell downtown near the Fenton Judicial Center off Canal Street. A public works crew cut them up late yesterday afternoon and loaded them into a large wood mulching truck.

On Dracut Street, a minivan driver saw a 20-foot tree limb shatter his windshield and block the road.

METHUEN

Wind gusts reached “extremely dangerous” speeds in Methuen around 3 p.m. yesterday, toppling trees, branches, power lines and utility poles across the city and knocking out power to more than 7,000 customers.

Mayor Stephen Zanni declared a state of emergency in the afternoon as Hurricane Sandy approached. Shortly after, Methuen Public Works Director Raymond DiFiore urged residents to stay off the roads.

A downed tree on Camden Street caused the first significant outage. But as the afternoon progressed, reports of falling trees and wires picked up rapidly.

Confusion arose between Zanni and the police department early in the evening with conflicting reports about a emergency shelter opening at Comprehensive Grammar School on Howe Street. The mayor first announced the shelter would open for residents without power. The police department promptly called the report “erroneous” on its Facebook page. The mayor said later that the shelter would be opened on an as-needed basis.

NORTH ANDOVER

A large tree fell across Route 125 near the former Lucent plant at around 2:30 p.m. yesterday. Traffic was blocked from the Haverhill city line to the Stevens Estate for several hours, according to police Lt. Charles Gray.

Two poles at Lawrence Municipal Airport were knocked down, but National Grid crews replaced them expeditiously, Gray said. Fallen trees closed Middleton Road as well as Barker, Bradford and Liberty streets, according to police Sgt. Thomas McEvoy. A number of side streets were also blocked by toppled trees, he said.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

In Kingston, downed lines ignited a brush fire along Route 125 about 10 a.m. An area, approximately 50 feet long, burned along the roadside, sending up thick clouds of smoke. Police directed traffic away from the fire, which did not cause any major damage.

Most towns didn’t start serious problems until after 2 p.m. An increasing number of downed trees and wires were reported late yesterday afternoon. They included a tree that fell on Mammoth Road in Londonderry and another on North Broadway in Atkinson that blocked access to nearby Haverhill.

Salem, N.H. Public Works Director Richard Russell said about 3 p.m. his crews were only dealing with an occasional downed tree and no major problems. Russell also said water levels in the Spicket River did not pose a threat.

In Londonderry, shortly after, the storm began to intensify, knocking down more trees in Salem, blocking Lawrence Road and other streets in North Salem. Police urged the public to stay off the road.

Gusts caused heavy damage to the roof and a parapet wall at Rockingham Honda on Route 128 in Salem, sending debris onto cars below, Fire Marshal Jeffrey Emanuelson said. Emanuelson said about 5 p.m. that crews were busy responding to numerous problems throughout town, including trees on homes. There was no major damage or injuries, he said.

Pelham police were reporting trees and wires down all over town. Town offices closed at 2 p.m. Trick-or-treating was postponed from Wednesday to Saturday, because of anticipated storm recovery effort.

In Londonderry, there were concerns about potential flooding on Brookview Drive and Parmenter Road. The fire department issued fliers to alert them of possible flooding before the storm hit. No flooding was reported as of late afternoon.

All town offices in Plaistow shut down at noon yesterday as well as the Plaistow Public Library. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new entrance to Town Hall was rescheduled because of the storm. In Atkinson, offices closed at 2 p.m. Town offices in Hampstead were closed early as well. The Hollyhock Thrift Shop, benefitting Hampstead Public Library and usually open Tuesday and Saturday, will be closed today due to the storm.

Staff writers Paul Tennant, Mike LaBella, Jill Harmacinski, Brian Messenger, John Toole, Doug Ireland, Dustin Luca, Julie Huss and James Niedzinski contributed to this report.