NEW BEDFORD — Massachusetts residents mopped up Saturday after a glancing blow from Hurricane Arthur flooded basements, knocked out power, and doused or delayed July Fourth celebrations.
“Overall, we’re in pretty good shape,” said Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. “We dodged a bullet on this one.”
Judge said municipalities, not state agencies, handled most of the cleanup, though passengers stranded by canceled ferries on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket used the agency’s blankets and supplies while spending Friday night at schools on the island.
A handful of areas were still experiencing power outages Saturday afternoon, Judge said, but power was expected to be restored before Sunday.
By Saturday evening, the number of NStar customers without service had fallen to 51, according to spokeswoman Annemarie Walsh, who said service was expected to be restored completely that night. National Grid had 12 active outages in the state, according to its website.
The worst damage from the storm came in the form of rain. New Bedford was hit the hardest, with 8 inches falling there, according to the National Weather Service.
Starting about 1:30 p.m. Friday, the New Bedford Fire Department worked for hours without pause to keep up with an exceptional number of calls reporting flooding.
On a typical day, we deal with between 35 to 45 calls,” New Bedford Fire Chief Michael Gomes said Saturday afternoon. “Yesterday we did 120.”
Forty-five firefighters, some summoned back to work from vacations, pumped rain out of more than 70 basements with up to 5 feet of water in them, Gomes said. At St. Luke’s Hospital, firefighters barely managed to keep water from topping a loading dock and spilling into the halls.
“At a number of times during the storm, we had nothing available. The volume of calls had stacked up and we went from one to the next to the next,” Gomes said. “The crews were out in torrential rain, soaking wet, no meals.”
In most of the city Saturday, a few puddles under sunny skies were the only reminder of the deluge. But on low-lying Sylvia Street, near the banks of the Acushnet River, water gushed from pumps as distraught homeowners tried to dry flooded basements.
Residents there called extensive damage from Arthur the boiling point in a simmering feud with town officials, who they allege have ignored longstanding flooding problems.
“Who else am I supposed to call?” said Sharon Palazzo, 61, who was trying to pump 4 inches of rainwater from her home, which sits on a slab. “I’ve called the mayor, my councilman, everyone.
“My rugs are all soaking wet. I’m exhausted. I just feel like crying. I can’t go through this every time it rains,” she said, bursting into tears. “I can’t even explain how I feel. I haven’t eaten since yesterday.”
Nearby, Debbie and Robert Furtado loaded a dumpster with items from their flooded cellar: sodden antique furniture, ruined Christmas decorations, old photographs, paintings by Debbie’s deceased mother, and more.
“Everything that wasn’t stored over 3 feet high was ruined,” said Robert Furtado, 59. “Because the city of New Bedford doesn’t want to spend money for proper drainage in the street. The city has had this problem for years.”
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said the city did everything it could to help, including having firefighters pump out basements all through Friday night and Saturday morning. But Sylvia Street residents live in a low-lying area, he said, where flooding is sometimes unavoidable.
“We do our best, but neighborhoods that are that close to water are prone to flooding,” he said. “I personally have not received a single call from anybody on Sylvia Street.”
Heavy rains also hit neighboring Fairhaven, causing street flooding.
Lieutenant Wally Therrien of the Fairhaven Fire Department said firefighters pumped water from the cellars of 11 houses, but that no other significant property damage or injuries were reported.
New Bedford’s fireworks show, which usually draws about 10,000 people, was set to go on Saturday night after being rescheduled from Friday, Mitchell said.
Other towns also canceled or rescheduled annual fireworks displays.
In Marblehead, officials canceled a planned fireworks show Saturday because they said lingering rough seas in Arthur’s wake would have made it impossible to safely load fireworks onto a barge. But the town’s traditional Harbor Illumination went on as planned Saturday night, police said.
In Plymouth, insurance concerns about a fireworks barge prompted officials to move the town’s festivities to July 12, while fireworks displays in Lynn, Falmouth, and Salem were delayed until Sunday.
The dreary weather did little to deter vacationers on Cape Cod.
Some hotels in Nantucket had cancellations, but managers said it was mostly business as usual. The Union Street Inn had minor flooding; the Wauwinet lost power for two hours.
In Provincetown, the weakened storm had a negligible impact on business.
“We had zero people try to cancel, and we didn’t get much of a hurricane,” said Jesse Hurlocker, general manager at the Provincetown bed and breakfast Inn at the Moors.
In Chatham, the only problems were downed wires and trees, said Fire Captain Mark Higgins.
Hurricane Arthur was downgraded to a tropical storm early Saturday, but still packed a punch as it hit Canada’s maritime provinces later in the day, causing power outages and flight delays, the Associated Press reported.
The storm brought up to 2.77 inches of rain and high winds to the northeast region of the Maine, the Associated Press said. As of Saturday evening, there were 16,000 reported outages in the state. Parts of Canada had five inches of rain.
Simpson said Nantucket saw the highest sustained winds — 47 miles per hour just before 10 p.m. Friday, with gusts of 63 miles per hour.
But with the exception of some lingering high seas north of Cape Cod Bay, state residents enjoyed perfect weather for belated Independence Day cookouts Saturday, with warm weather forecast through Sunday. Monday, temperatures and humidity are expected to rise, with highs in the mid to upper 80s, Simpson said.
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