State officials warned it could take days to restore electricity to huge swaths of Eastern and coastal Massachusetts after a bellowing nor’easter packing hurricane-force winds and drenching rain slammed into the state overnight Tuesday and into Wednesday, downing power lines and countless trees and blocking many roads.
Nearly 500,000 Massachusetts residents initially lost electricity during the storm, with Southeastern Massachusetts taking the brunt. By late Wednesday night, the outage numbers had declined to about 387,000.
Governor Charlie Baker warned that the impact of the nor’easter, even as it waned, was far from over and that restoring power would be a “multiday process.” State officials asked residents to regard every downed wire as a live one, drive carefully, and keep an eye out for tree branches, work crews, and flooded roads.
“If you need to go out, be careful,” Baker said.
Winds reached 94 miles per hour in Edgartown at 4:30 a.m., and on the mainland hit 87 m.p.h. in Scituate and 78 m.p.h. in Rockport on the North Shore.
Schools were canceled in many places, courthouses closed, ferry service stopped, and public transportation disrupted and delayed. More than 3 inches of rain fell in parts of the state, including Chilmark, Salem, and Randolph, and more than 30 communities recorded in excess of 2 inches.
By Wednesday night, after the storm moved on, entire communities were still without power, including Hanson, Hanover, Scituate, Hingham, Cohasset, and Pembroke, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, and numerous others had most residents without power.
Meanwhile, as many people shivered, media coverage of the nor’easter introduced some hunkered-down residents to “bombogenesis,” an obscure meteorological term used to describe a steep drop in pressure over 24 hours that results in a rapidly strengthening storm.
And its effects seemed to be everywhere at and near the coast.
Along the shore roads of hard-hit Plymouth, crews worked to remove hundreds of downed tree limbs and branches from streets and driveways. One large tree branch blocked an access road to Plimoth Patuxet Museums; another fell across the driveway to the school administration building; and a large treetop was sheared off by wind near Plymouth Rock, landing just feet from a statue of William Bradford, the governor of Plymouth Colony.
Police closed part of Main Street downtown to allow a huge fallen tree to be removed. In front of the Plymouth Yacht Club, a shed was toppled sideways. And throughout the historic district, white clapboard houses were speckled top to bottom with mud, blackened leaves, and other wind-blown debris.
National Grid officials said more than 2,400 workers had fanned out across the region to address the power outages. According to Michael McCallan, National Grid’s vice president of New England electric operations, the utility is “prioritizing those repairs that will return service to the largest number of customers first.”
Rhode Island also saw significant power outages and school closures. About 28,000 National Grid customers were without power by late Wednesday night. More than 2 inches of rain fell in Burrillville and Hope Valley.
At Cohasset Harbor, Paul Appleton stood on his 21-foot Wellcraft that had washed up on shore. Shivering and with his hands stuffed in his raincoat pockets, Appleton waited for friends to arrive with anchors.
“It was a beautiful weekend, so I figured I’d get a few more days out of it before I took it out,” Appleton said of the boat. “I was one day too late. Never again.”
Michael Askjaer, also of Cohasset, said he was thankful he had taken his boat out of the harbor Tuesday. Askjaer lost power overnight and said his family planned to spend Wednesday playing Monopoly and catching up on sleep.
The wind “kept us up all night. It was the strongest wind we’ve ever experienced,” he said.
Cohasset Police Chief William Quigley messaged residents that “the town has sustained substantial damage to trees and electrical infrastructure.”
The situation had become so concerning that two “saw crews” totaling 11 people from state Department of Correction maintenance units were dispatched to Cohasset to help clear debris, state officials said.
Cohasset police also tweeted that the press box at Alumni Field, where the town’s athletic teams play, had blown off the stands and was a total loss. Police also reported that “historic trees” had toppled on the Common.
In Middleborough, high winds knocked out power to the Fire Department’s main station for nearly seven hours. Police were called for storm-related service more than 200 times, and more than two-dozen roads were closed due to downed trees and power lines.
On Cape Cod, Sandwich Deputy Fire Chief Timothy McMahon said he encountered a tree fire near a transformer as he drove to work along Route 130 in the predawn darkness. McMahon said that the fire fizzled out, but that his crews had been busy nonstop since midnight dealing with downed branches and blocked roadways.
In Essex, Frank Hardy, 72, woke up to find a large tree on his front lawn. Soon, he was standing outside, wielding a saw, and trying to make his driveway passable again.
“It’s been there since I’ve been here,” Hardy said of the tree. “At least it’s only one.”
Elsewhere in Essex, a power outage prompted Miloud Allouane to turn away customers at his normally busy Gulf gas station.
The loss of power disrupted the school day for thousands of youngsters, including in Boston, where two schools were closed. Many schools were shut on Cape Cod and the South Shore. More than a dozen will remain closed on Thursday, largely due to power outages, school officials said.
Xavier Andrews, a Boston Public Schools spokesman, said TechBoston Academy and BTU K-8 Pilot School had lost power and dismissed students early on Wednesday.
Fallen trees slowed morning service for the MBTA’s Red Line and Mattapan trolleys, and commuter-rail delays occurred when more than 50 trees needed to be removed from the Middleborough, Kingston, and Greenbush lines, according to MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo.
State highways also were affected. A downed utility pole in Milton snarled northbound traffic on the Southeast Expressway, a fallen tree and power wires on Route 28 in Barnstable closed traffic in both directions, and part of Route 133 in Gloucester was shut due to downed trees and utility lines, state transportation officials said.
In New Bedford, a small plane parked at the airport there had been lifted by strong winds and deposited in a road against a tree, according to social media reports.
And in Salem, which is drawing throngs of Halloween visitors this week, ferry connections with Boston were canceled Wednesday. The MBTA also announced that Hingham ferry service would be suspended Thursday after a pleasure craft damaged the commuter dock during the storm.
Despite the damage and drama, some residents sought to make the best of it.
One Cohasset couple, John and Joan Kenny, embarked on their storm ritual: picking up scratch tickets and soda and driving along the water in their red pickup truck.
“It’s very interesting to watch the ocean,” John Kenny yelled over the gusting wind.
Travis Andersen, John Ellement, Martin Finucane, and Jenna Russell of the Globe staff, and correspondents Andrew Brinker, Colleen Cronin and Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.
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