At the height of the Blizzard of 2013, so many trees felled by the driving winds lay across roads in Cohasset that you couldn’t get in or out of the town. Elsewhere, fallen trees landed on an ambulance and the fire chief’s car in Marshfield, tore the roof off a house in Weymouth, and knocked out power for tens of thousands across the region.
“Pretty much everything about the storm was driven by the wind — from the flooding to the power outages,” said Michael Page, who runs a local meteorology website, www.hinghamweather.com.
The intense winds from the northeast pushed seas toward the coastline, causing flooding, and toppled trees weighted with heavy snow onto power lines and everything else in their path, he said.
“We had hundreds of trees come down,” said Scituate Selectman Anthony Vegnani. “The day of the storm we had 100 percent power outage, and all the major arteries [in town] were blocked because of trees down and wires down.”
In Marshfield, the situation was so dire that the National Guard was called in to help. Ninety-three percent of town residents lost power during the storm and as many as 160 people and 38 pets stayed overnight at an emergency shelter at the Furnace Brook Middle School, according to Police Chief Phillip A. Tavares.
During the storm, a house and barn burned to the ground on Trouants Island, neighborhoods flooded, and dunes at the beach were “completely wiped out, gone,” he said.
“It’s incredible, the amount of damage,” said Tavares, whose own cruiser was hit by falling branches. “It was surreal being out in the middle of it. It was very similar to what I imagine a battle scene would be.
“There’s going to be months and months of cleanup. And the assessment of [the cost of] all the overtime and the damage is going to take weeks,” he added.
In Cohasset, fallen trees and wires blocked all major roads into town for a while and most residences and businesses lost power. Trees also fell on — and through — several houses, according to Acting Police Chief William Quigley.
To complicate matters, the town briefly imposed a water ban when the generator at the municipal water treatment plant “had a catastrophic failure” and a replacement part had to be flown in from out of state, Quigley said. And a delivery truck from Nebraska following a GPS route to Weymouth caught low-hanging wires on narrow King Street and took out the main electrical feed for the whole town on Sunday afternoon, he said.
On the brighter side, local restaurants and groceries donated food and supplies for the town’s “warming center” at the Deer Hill School, where one of the police detectives cooked for emergency personnel and townspeople. Said Quigley: “It was a tough situation, but it was nice to see everyone come together.”
Farther down the coast, the combination of surging ocean water and fierce winds caused “very bad damage” in Duxbury, which called in the National Guard and the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to help clear roads and check on residents, said Fire Chief Kevin Nord. He said about 15 people had to be rescued from flooding homes during high tide.
About 90 percent of the town lost power, and the generator at the fire headquarters failed, forcing calls to be rerouted to Kingston and then relayed to temporary operations at the Duxbury police station, he said. Water pipes at two town schools froze and broke, and hundreds of trees came down, he said.
“The blizzard was so ferocious we had to take our guys off the road” for a while. “I had guys getting hurt,” Nord said. “This is the worst storm I’ve seen. It topped Irene and Sandy. I was here for the Blizzard of ’78, and it’s going to top that one, too.”
Tree damage was a major problem in Hingham, according to Randy Sylvester, superintendent of the town’s Department of Public Works. One tall pine fell onto the Second Parish Church on Main Street, landing on the steeple, he said. “We had to bring in a crane to get it off; it was probably 100 feet,” he said.
Weymouth also had many trees down, including one that ripped off part of a home’s roof, according to acting Fire Chief Joseph L. Davis.
In Wareham, the town’s most unusual wind casualty may have been five telephone poles and transformers behind the fire station, according to Robert McDuffy, chief of the Wareham Fire District. The poles transmit alarms for all buildings that have a fire alarm or sprinkler system tied into the station, and they were “just destroyed . . . turned into a million pieces, basically,” he said. On Tuesday, the station was still running on generators, and some telephone lines remained inoperable.
Onset Village, on the Wareham waterfront, saw no severe flooding; again, wind was the culprit, knocking down trees and ripping the electrical wires off homes. The village generated about 130 emergency calls during the storm, according to Chief Howard B. Andersen of the Onset Fire District.
The town of Marion saw tree and wire damage. One tree penetrated the roof of a home, but no one was injured, Police Chief Lincoln Miller said.
Farther inland, communities reported less damage from the blizzard’s gales.
“We survived very well, actually,” said Avon Town Administrator Michael McCue. “The common thought is that due to the past few storms with strong winds, most of the susceptible trees have already come down,” he said.
Officials in Milton, Westwood, Rockland, Dedham, and Foxborough also reported minimal wind-related damage.
Some roads in Lakeville were not opened until Tuesday because so many trees and power lines obstructed them, according to David Goodfellow, deputy fire chief.
Meteorologist Rob Gilman, who lives in Hull, said the high winds were concentrated along the coast, moving inland from the storm’s center that tracked off Nantucket. The peak winds were early Saturday morning, which is when most of the tree damage happened, he said.
“This was an almost-but-not-quite Blizzard of ’78,” Gilman said. “It was meteorologically the same type of event” but not quite as intense as that enormously destructive storm.
“Back in ’78, there were some gusts of 90 miles per hour,” Gilman said. “Hurricane force is 75. Especially right along the coast [during this storm], there were frequent gusts that were around hurricane force. The highest measured were in the 80 to 85 range.”
“This was a pretty strong, pretty robust” winter storm, said Robert Thompson, the meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service in Taunton. “It’s one of the stronger ones we’ve seen in quite a while.”
Local officials say they’ll be dealing with the impact of the high winds for quite a while, as well.
“We’re still cleaning up damage,” said Hingham’s Sylvester. “We’ll be doing that probably for months to come.”
Clarification: Because of incomplete information provided by a town official, an earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the storm’s impact on Duxbury’s 911 system. Duxbury Fire Chief Kevin Nord said that while the town’s 911 center was closed, calls were rerouted to Kingston and then relayed to temporary operations at the Duxbury police station.