By Bill Kirk
---- — ANDOVER — Clean-up crews were out in force this morning as chainsaw-weilding tree trimmers lopped off branches and chopped down trunks while police barricaded roads and parents wondered what to do with their children, who were home for a second day in a row in most cities and towns in the area.
Bob Decelle of 44 Linwood St., Andover, watched as power crews tacked wires and cables onto two, new utility poles on Haverhill Street/Route 133 in Andover. An enormous, rotted oak between the sidewalk and the road fell into the front yard and driveway of 87 Haverhill St. around 4:15 yesterday, bringing down utility poles and power lines and knocking out power to a wide swath of homes in the area.
"The lights went out and a second later I heard 'CA-RASH,'" said Decelle, whose home is a block or so away, through the woods. "I felt it hit the ground."
Through the night, utility and town crews worked to erect new poles and clear the debris.
This morning, a small audience of neighbors watched as workers finished the job.
"Last night, they told us we'd get power back by noon," said Mark Vieira of Whittemore Terrace, about a half-mile from the work scene. "But my wife heard this morning it might not be until tomorrow."
Throughout Andover and much of the rest of the Merrimack Valley, thousands of residents were in a similar predicament, waiting until trees could be removed so powerlines could be reconnected and electricity restored. In Andover as of 11 a.m. today there were 2,845 customers with no power.
In Methuen, City Hall is in the dark. A generator is providing enough power so phones can be answered in the Public Works department and the mayor's office. All the offices in the building are dark. Government offices opened in the morning, but all non-essential employees were sent home by 10 a.m. today when power wasn't restored.
According to Public Works Director Ray DiFiore a representative from National Grid told city officials that they were working on the problem and that "hopefully power will be up and running this afternoon. We are a priority customer."
DiFiore said there were about 50 trees down in the city, and 10 streets blocked. Tree crews were working feverishly to cut up the trees, with the assistance of two, private tree-cutting contractors. Trash, recycling and leaf pick-up is going on as scheduled today. In addition, the city's landfill will stay open for extended hours today through Saturday so people can drop off yard and tree debris. The landfill will be open until 5 p.m. Methuen has also re-scheduled Halloween for Saturday. There were 3,664 customers without power in Methuen as of 11 a.m.
In Haverhill, there were about 5,700 customers without power as of around 11 a.m., according to Mayor James Fiorentini's Facebook page. He said there are 20 to 30 trees down, with a few blocking some public ways.
"We expect the streets to be cleared by sometime this afternoon," he said. "Schools opened without incident. We are not aware of any flooding problems."
He added that the highway yard will be open for tree and limb drop off every day this week until 4 p.m. and Saturday until 1 p.m. "We are waiving the fees for tree and limb drop off until Saturday," he said.
Lawrence residents continued coping with downed power lines and broken tree branches. As of 12:30, there were still 2,262 customers without power in the Immigrant City.