Work crews in Arlington spent Thursday cleaning up downed trees, gutters, and power lines from the big storm Wednesday, but the thing that left building superintendent Kevin Wright still marveling was the dead fish left on the lawn of Arlington Gardens apartments.
At the base of a felled tree was what appeared to be a carp, presumably hurled by the powerful storm from Spy Pond five blocks away.
“It came through so fast,” Wright said of Wednesday’s storm. “It was total whiteout with the water that was just coming down so hard. I mean, I couldn’t see out my front door.”
The National Weather Service in Taunton said Thursday that the storm had spawned a microburst, or sinking column of wind, generating gusts of 70 to 80 miles per hour around 6 p.m. the day before in Arlington. The damage in Arlington was the worst caused by the heavy thunderstorms in the state Wednesday, said Frank Nocera, a senior forecaster for the agency.
The strong winds damaged more than 100 trees and sent some crashing into homes, with a square mile in East Arlington the hardest hit. Late Thursday afternoon, Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said more than 30 homes in Arlington were without power, and NStar estimated that it would restore electricity to the homes Thursday night. He said many of the outages were caused by power lines ripped from homes by the storm.
The town said several streets, parks, and the Minuteman Bikeway were closed Thursday while crews worked to remove fallen trees and debris.
Chapdelaine said there were no reports of significant injuries caused by the storm, but one couple suffered minor abrasions and injuries when a tree fell and trapped them in their car Wednesday night.
Chapdelaine said the town is working to compile a damage estimate by early next week to see if it can seek state or federal assistance. He said he expects the amount to be “fairly significant.”
As the cleanup efforts were underway, Arlington voters in a special election Thursday afternoon upheld a new town ban on gas-powered leaf blowers from May 15 through Oct. 15 each year because of concerns about noise and potentially harmful dust kicked up by the devices.
At one of the polling places, the Hardy School on Lake Street, the storm snapped a large tree. Crews were at the school before the polls opened at 2 p.m. Thursday, clearing away the tree and debris in time for the election to start.
“I think today we’re using cranes, chippers, and chainsaws,” Chapdelaine said.
The National Weather Services and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency toured the town with Arlington firefighters Thursday. Nocera said the pattern of damage and fallen trees was consistent with a microburst that came down and dispersed “like syrup on a plate.”
Surveying the fallen trees and power lines in her neighborhood Thursday, Julie Somlyody recounted seeing a black swirling mass and a broken limb spinning overhead Wednesday night when she looked out her door.
Somlyody said her house shook, and she told her children to get on the floor. The winds knocked a limb off one of her trees and knocked over a telephone poll, leaving her without power overnight.
“It was violent,” Somlyody said of the wind. “I couldn’t shut my door.”
On Tufts Street, George Ryan, 62, had just stepped out on the porch to smoke a cigarette Wednesday evening when he saw the wind blow the lid off one of his trash barrels. He said he was thinking about how he needed to fetch the lid when the heavy winds really kicked in.
“Like that quick,” he said and snapped his fingers, “every thing went at the same time.”
The microburst knocked down a large tree in Ryan’s back yard that fell on and crushed the garage of his neighbor, Dick Heavern.
In front of Heavern’s home, another tree fell and crashed onto the spot on the street from which he and his wife had just pulled away in their car on the way to his birthday dinner. He turned 79 Wednesday, and he said he didn’t know about the damage to his garage until his son called him while he was having his birthday meal.
“Nobody got hurt; that is the big thing,” he said.
Wright said he was spending the day cleaning up after the storm, but he was going to try to squeeze in a trip to the polls to vote against the leaf blower ban. He said he needs the leaf blowers to clean up the walkways at the apartment building.
As crews cleaned up around the Hardy School using a leaf blower Thursday, Somlyody said she was glad to see it.
“I’m pretty happy they are out there today,” she said.