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Harwich recovers from tornado: ‘If it had gone three feet to the left, it would have been in my son’s bedroom’

Homeowner Tom Keating surveyed a downed tree that landed on the roof of his home on Chatham Road in Harwich.
Homeowner Tom Keating surveyed a downed tree that landed on the roof of his home on Chatham Road in Harwich.(JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF)

HARWICH — Downed power lines and felled trees littered the streets here, as residents regrouped and began to get a sense of the damage dealt by the tornado that reached wind speeds of 110 mph earlier in the day.

Thickly-wooded Lover’s Lane wasn’t so lovely Tuesday evening, with chunks of trees blocking parts of the road and houses half covered by fallen branches.

A block away, workers hacked away at a tree that had fallen into Tricia Murray’s front yard. She was at work in Boston during the worst of the weather, but hurried home when a friend texted her a photo of the damage.

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“If it had gone three feet to the left, it would have been in my son’s bedroom,” she said.

Murray wasn’t sure what to do about the tree, so she called Eversource and the police department. Tuesday evening, she walked her dog, Charlie, around the neighborhood.

No one she knows has power yet, she said, but she’s making the best of the situation.

“Honestly, it could have been a lot worse, and it’s a beautiful night,” Murray said.

Most of the town lost power because of the storm, according to the National Weather Service. A tornado had initially touched down in Yarmouth and then touched down again in Harwich, where a local state of emergency was declared.

“The greatest amount of damage appears to have occurred in the town of Harwich,” read a statement from the weather service.

On Chatham Street, the sun was gone at 8 p.m. but three pepper-haired men stood talking between two big, red cars with tree debris surrounding them.

They were in Tom Keating’s driveway with a tree atop his Harwich house -- two neighbors were visiting him and just hanging out .

Keating was in the basement of his Harwich house when the tree fell onto his roof -- he and his wife had just ducked underground after watching the news and then losing electricity. They stayed downstairs in the dark for 20 or so minutes.

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“I heard it from the basement — I could hear trees snapping all around, oh yeah,” Keating said. “It’s just a big crackle — it was scary.”

“I was out at the front door and the wind picked up, then I ran into the house and said to my wife, ‘We need to go to the basement — this is bad.’”

It was his first tornado, and they didn’t have electricity. The engine of Keating’s red truck was on so that he could charge his phone. He and his wife were alone when the tornado hit and were trying to finish all the food in their refrigerator, which was not much since they had planned to go home to New Hampshire on Friday.

Keating fired up his grill for lunch, making sausages.

He planned to take a cold shower and sleep in the dark — they put candles around the house, which were visible from the outside.

“I have already taken down trees on the outside, but as we go, there’ll be more trees taken down,” said Keating.

Keating had his eyes on at least a dozen trees around his house that he wants to remove before something else happens. He said the inside of his house did not appear to be damaged on Tuesday.

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“Three years ago, one fell that didn’t hit the house, but it knocked out the powerline going to the house, so there’s been three or four on this side that I’ve removed already,” he said.

Keating cleared out the smaller branches so that it’s easier for workers to take away the fallen tree.

“I heard the crash, and I was like, ‘uh oh, this is bad,’ but I came out, and it really isn’t bad. I was kind of happy to see what had happened, because it’s not really that bad.”


Danny McDonald of Globe staff contributed to this report. Kellen Browning can be reached at kellen.browning@globe.com. Diamond Naga Siu can be reached at diamondnaga.siu@globe.com.