More than 180,000 Massachusetts electric customers, mostly on the South Shore and Cape Cod, were still without power as temperatures dropped Thursday night and restoration efforts continued after Wednesday’s nasty nor’easter.
Utility companies were only able to pare the number of outages down from about 330,000 at about 6 a.m. Company officials acknowledged that it would be a multi-day process to get people’s lights back on.
With temperatures Thursday night expected in the mid- to high 40s, several South Shore communities remained completely without power.
The long-duration storm brought winds gusting as a high as 94 miles per hour and 3 inches of rain in some communities, resulting in the widespread downing of trees, especially on the South Shore and Cape Cod. At one point Wednesday, nearly half a million electric customers had lost power.
“I’ve never seen anything as bad as it was yesterday — it was insane,” said Lisa Gilbert, 53, who has lived in Cohasset for two decades.
“Boats were out of the water, and on the street major trees were down all over,” she said Thursday morning. “There are still a number of streets that are impassable and residents can’t get out. ... it was just really astonishing.”
Crews from Eversource and National Grid will have decent weather for their restoration efforts Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. But gusty winds from another storm could hamper restoration efforts Saturday, forecasters said.
As of 11:02 p.m. Thursday, the number of outages statewide was 180,223, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
Eversource chief executive Joe Nolan said at a Thursday morning news conference that he expected “when the sun goes down you’ll see an extraordinary drop in the amount of customers that are without power. I can promise you that.”
He said the company expected to restore power to 98 percent of customers, all but a handful of special cases, by 6 p.m. Saturday.
He also said the company hoped to give customers estimates with “some granularity,” beginning Thursday night, of when their power will be restored so “they can understand what they’re dealing with for their individual outages so they get some comfort.”
National Grid said Thursday in a statement, “The restoration effort is expected to last for multiple days, with the majority of customers restored by Saturday morning.”
Michael McCallan, vice president of New England electric operations, said in the statement, “Today we continue our focus on restoring our remaining impacted customers as safely and quickly as possible, while also working to provide more refined estimated times for restoration.”
Christine Milligan, National Grid spokeswoman, said Thursday afternoon, “We continue to make steady progress and the numbers will continue to drop overnight. So we’ll get there.”
Governor Charlie Baker told reporters at the State House, “The number of crews that were on the ground today is significantly raised from the number of crews that were on the ground yesterday.”
“The weather today is much better today, and the wind finally died down. Today, I believe, is going to be a good day for the utilities,” he said. “I hope and anticipate that they’ll be able to deliver on what Eversource said earlier today, which is by sometime Saturday pretty much everybody should be back, which means Halloween should be on – which is really important.”
In Cohasset, town officials met to discuss recovery efforts in the aftermath of the storm. Fire Chief Robert D. Silvia said the damage was spread across the entire town. Cohasset schools are closed for Friday, officials said.
“I’ve been at this for a long time, in emergency services in Cohasset, and I’ve never seen anything like this, the amount of damage that we’re actually dealing with,” he said. “We’ve had hurricanes, but a hurricane comes through and an hour or two later it’s gone. This was 24, 36, almost 48 hours of windstorm, and the amount of damage is unprecedented. We know we’ve got a lot that needs to be repaired. And to do it safely, it’s going to take time.”
Town Manager Christopher G. Senior said the town’s senior center will serve as a charging and warming station for residents. “Right now our biggest challenge is we have no power,” Senior said.
Senior said utility crews were working to restore power but no timeline had been given for when electricity would return. He encouraged people to check on their neighbors to make sure they’re OK.
Gilbert, the Cohasset photographer, headed into Boston to stay with a friend until her power is restored. She said she wasn’t holding out hope that things will be up and running any time soon. She said she has already received a series of messages from National Grid, each one with a different estimated restoration time.
“The times keep changing,” she said. “First, it said tonight at 11:45 p.m., then 6 p.m. tonight, and then 11:45 p.m. again.”
On the South Shore and parts of the Cape, long lines were forming at gas stations as people collected fuel needed to operate their generators and to replenish their vehicles.
Officials have asked people to regard every downed wire as a live wire; to drive carefully and keep an eye out for tree branches, work crews, and flooded roads; to be good neighbors, and to be patient.
“Assume every wire is a live wire. If you need to go out, be careful,” Baker said at a Wednesday news conference.
More than a dozen schools on the South Shore and Cape Cod remained closed on Thursday, largely due to power outages, school officials said, including those in Carver, Marshfield, Duxbury, Plymouth, Stoughton, Orleans, and Brockton, along with the Upper Cape Regional Technical High School and the Whitman-Hanson Regional School District, according to officials.
Stonehill College in Easton closed its campus and canceled in-person classes for Thursday and Friday because of an outage there, the college said.
Rhode Island also saw significant power outages. About 2,402 National Grid customers in Rhode Island were without power around 11:02 p.m. Thursday.
A wind gust of 94 miles per hour was recorded in Edgartown at 4:31 a.m. Wednesday according to the weather service, one of multiple instances when gusts reached speeds of over 80 miles per hour on Cape Cod and coastal South Shore communities.
The disruption in the routine of daily life caused by the storm generated acts of kindness. In Marshfield, Karie O’Donnell, with her dog, Honey, offered coffee to drivers waiting at the Public Auto Service Center. O’Donnell, who owns KO Fine Art Gallery next to the gas station, thought people in line could use a lift.
In Duxbury, where police and fire responded to multiple trees down and a high volume of emergency calls Wednesday, residents were advised to stay off the roads “due to the large amount of debris still in the roadways,” the department said on Twitter.
Town Hall also will be closed Thursday, police said.
Keolis Commuter Services, which operates the MBTA’s commuter rail network, reported signal problems were causing delays on multiple lines Thursday.
Ferry service also continued to be affected Thursday. The MBTA said it needs to “make repairs to the Hingham Dock” and ferry service will not operate at all Thursday. However, modified ferry service will operate to Hull.
The Steamship Authority, which had cancellations and delays Tuesday and Wednesday, canceled the 6:30 a.m. ferry to Nantucket on Thursday, the agency said on its website.
The state courts announced all courthouses in Barnstable County will remain closed Thursday due to lack of power as will district courts in Stoughton and Wareham. However, all other courthouses on Cape Cod and the South Shore that were closed Wednesday will operate Thursday, officials said.
While the impact of the winds got the most attention, the weather service reported Wednesday that some communities, especially along the north and south coasts, had experienced heavy rainfall.
According to the weather service, Salem, Randolph, New Bedford, and Chilmark each received more than 3 inches of rain, and more than 30 communities recorded in excess of 2 inches of rain.
In Bourne, about 90 percent of residents still lacked power Thursday morning, and the cleanup was proceeding slowly.
A large tree that fell on Keene Street trapped Charles Sutkus and four of his neighbors in their driveways, and they still could not get their cars.
”The street is a horseshoe, on the other side it’s the same thing, it’s a pole down. So there’s a handful of us stuck and can’t get out,” said Sutkus, 62, who is a builder. Sutkus was going to lend a portable generator to a friend but the friend can’t get his truck close enough to load up the generator. Sutkus has opted not to use the generator himself.
“It’s just me,” he said. “I have a fireplace for heat and a candle for light. I’m a single guy, so I don’t have a stocked refrigerator full of food going bad. That’s what’s going on with other people.”
Sutkus perked up when he heard the train rumbling by.
”Oh, the trains running, that’s good. That means the tracks are clear.. Normalcy, I’m looking for any sense of normalcy.”
Material from prior Globe coverage was used in this report.
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