WILMINGTON — Nearly 1.5 million homes and businesses in New England lost power and thousands could remain without it for several days, after a strong autumn storm blasted the region with high winds and heavy rain that toppled trees, flooded roads, and downed electrical lines.
Maine was knocked especially hard, with 492,000 homes and businesses losing electricity, surpassing the record number from an infamous 1998 ice storm.
At the storm’s peak early Monday, more than 300,000 homes and businesses in Massachusetts lost electricity, and about 250,000 were still dark more than 10 hours after the storm had cleared, leaving cleanup crews and homeowners to assesses the damage.
While no one was hurt, dozens of houses and cars in Massachusetts — mostly in the Merrimack Valley and South Shore — were hit by falling trees. School was canceled in several towns, and travel was delayed on the commuter rail.
Utility officials in Massachusetts said they were working to restore electricity to critical facilities such as hospitals and shelters first and declined to say precisely how long it might take to bring power back to residential neighborhoods.
“It’s probably going to be a multi-day restoration effort,” said Bob Kievra, a National Grid spokesman, who added that his company was hoping to enlist an 500 additional crews to supplement the 162 who were already working across Massachusetts.
The storm brought winds of 40 to 50 miles per hour to many areas of the state, and peak gusts of 78 miles per hour to Mashpee, according to the National Weather Service.
On Clorinda Road in Wilmington, Jennifer Tassone was awoken at about 3 a.m. by a loud crashing noise like a thunder strike. She and her husband ran to check on their three children and then went into the family room, where they saw the large double oak tree in their front yard had toppled, its roots ripped from the ground.
The tree grazed the front gutter of the family’s salmon two-story ranch, cracked the pane of their son’s bedroom window, and fell on the hood of Tassone’s white minivan.
“We got really, really lucky here because if this went through the roof of the house, we would be been in big trouble,” Tassone said. “Somebody was watching over us last night.”
On Monday morning, Tassone and her children, along with other neighborhood kids, all of whom had school cancelled, gathered on the sidewalk and watched a large crane hoist the oak into the air and lower it into a giant wood chipper.
“I’m just sad because I lose my shade on this side of the yard in the summertime,” Tassone said with a laugh. “It’s unfortunate but we’re just happy no one is hurt.”
Less than 2 miles away, on South Street in Wilmington, the blue, two-story house that Art Bibeau Sr. has owned since 1966 suffered more serious damage when a large oak in his front yard crashed through the roof at about 1:30 a.m., sending rainwater cascading into the living room.
“I heard a large crack,’’ said Gary Bibeau, Art Bibeau’s son, who was asleep in the living room when the tree fell. “It got me right up. It was loud, very loud.”
Art Bibeau Jr. said his father, who is 85, was unhurt but badly shaken by the damage. “He’s a basket case,” said Art Bibeau Jr., who took his father to his house at about 2:30 a.m. “He said, ‘Oh, this is going to be a mess.’ I tried to calm him down.”
Jim Fitzpatrick, who owns Northeast Tree Inc. in Woburn, said he had deployed 15 trucks, two cranes, and several wood-chippers to handle about 25 trees down in the Reading-Wilmington area.
“As fast as we go, more are coming in,” he said. “There’s a lot of damage.”
Still, he said, the storm pales in comparison to past hurricanes, when his crews responded to 100 to 125 trees down.
In Andover, where nearly 80 percent of residents and businesses remained without power Monday night, according to Town Manager Andrew P. Flanagan, officials canceled school for a second day Tuesday. They also postponed celebrating Halloween — perhaps until Friday, but a date had not been finalized.
Sheldon Berman, the superintendent of schools, said town officials decided it isn’t safe for children to walk to school or go trick-or-treating when electrical lines are down and homes are without power.
“I have a sense that people will be understanding,” Berman said. “People are going to appreciate how hard it is for many people who don’t have power to accommodate an issue like this.”
Companies on scene on Russet Rd. With these heavy rains use caution when driving and of downed wires! pic.twitter.com/zjzKqG02I8— Brookline Fire Dept. (@BrooklineFD) October 30, 2017