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In Boston, streets mostly deserted as Sandy hits region

Few people could be seen walking along Washington Street in Boston.Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

A decades-old tree slammed into an East Boston home, punching out a window, while the gusting winds of Hurricane Sandy drew one windsurfer into the waters off South Boston today for a breakneck ride across Pleasure Bay. Meanwhile, a little farther away from the water, the streets were mostly deserted while a police cruiser announced on its loudspeaker that people should stay indoors.

In East Boston, a powerful gust uprooted a towering tree in the backyard of a Waldemar Avenue home. The tree, which the homeowner estimated to be about 50 years old, fell into the house but only punched out the kitchen window.


No one was hurt.

“I went outside to have a cigarette and all of a sudden I see the tree fall,” said the owner, who asked not to be identified by name. “I’m shaken up. ... We’re going to save the house because I’m a very spiritual person.”

In Boston, by noontime, the city’s 24-hour hotline had received 1,000 calls today, including 17 reports of downed wires and 16 tree emergencies.

Emergency officials said wind gusts as strong as 55 miles per hour were expected to continue until this evening before slackening after 9 p.m.

Roderick Fraser, the city’s fire commissioner, warned against complacency.

“We’re going to have a long, long period of high wind,’’ Fraser said.

In South Boston, 37-year-old Nikita Piankov could not resist challenging himself and the wind-whipped waves off Castle Island. Piankov donned a wetsuit and manhandled his board with a red sail into the water, a move he later admitted was not the most sane decision of his life.

“Yeah, it’s a little crazy,’’ Piankov said.

But he added, “Its a lot of fun out there, this is probably the windiest time I’ve surfed.”

John Fraser, 42, of Everett, was on Castle Island taking in the scenery as he puffed on a cigar. Fraser was one of about dozen people sitting in cars watching the churning waves.


“I think these guys [windsurfers] are crazy,’’ he said.

In Savin Hill, members of the Dorchester Yacht Club were bracing for Sandy’s arrival and had gathered at the clubhouse near Malibu Beach.

“We moved the boats in closer to the club and made sure to tie up everything tight,” said Paul Cabral, 45.

Dave Greenwood, 59, said about a dozen members had come to the club to prepare for the storm. As the morning moved along, it was wait and see.

“We don’t know how bad it will be,” he said.

Away from the water, pedestrians were scarce late this morning in the Fenway and Back Bay neighborhoods as rain showers began to fall steadily and wind began to gust.

Near Huntington Avenue and Massachusetts Avenue, a few dedicated athletes got in one last and wet morning run before the storm while last-minute shoppers picked up some essentials.

On and around Newbury and Boylston streets, truck drivers hurried to make deliveries to shops and restaurants.

Whole Foods Symphony on Westland Avenue was busy but not chaotic, and its shelves were still stocked with bread, chips, water, and other storm staples. A handful of customers picked through the remaining small battery-powered lights at the nearby Economy True Value Hardware store, which had sold out of flashlights.

Traffic was also light in the area. One of the only cars out was a Boston police cruiser slowly patrolling and alerting people of the hurricane conditions and encouraging residents via megaphone to stay indoors.


John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com.