Metro

Hammered by the storm, Cape Cod officials open three emergency shelters

Sheila Smith and her wife, Jeanne Smallcomb, and their dog, Sully, entered the shelter at Sandwich High School on Tuesday. The couple lost power in their home Tuesday morning.
Barry Chin/Globe Staff
Sheila Smith and her wife, Jeanne Smallcomb, and their dog, Sully, entered the shelter at Sandwich High School on Tuesday. The couple lost power in their home Tuesday morning.

Cape Cod was hammered Tuesday with heavy, wet snow and high winds that left more than 120,000 utility customers without power, prompting officials to open three emergency shelters.

The Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee announced that Sandwich High School, Barnstable Intermediate School in Hyannis, and Cape Cod Regional Technical School in Harwich would open at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

“We have widespread power outages on the Cape and we are concerned — even though it’s not bitterly cold, the temperature is below freezing,” said Kevin Morley, a spokesman for the emergency planning committee. “We wanted to make it possible for citizens to find a secure, warm place.”

Advertisement

Governor Charlie Baker plans to join a cadre of local legislators to discuss the storm in Barnstable on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m., his office announced late Tuesday.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Morley said officials were responding to many calls for downed power lines and downed trees and tree limbs.

“The key thing is that it’s a heavy, wet snow,” he said. “It’s not the quantity, it’s the consistency. It’s like cement.”

As of 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, more than 120,000 customers were without power between Wareham and Provincetown, according to Eversource.

In Wareham, more than 4,400 Eversource customers were without power. In Falmouth, that number topped 14,000; in Barnstable it exceeded 17,000; and in Harwich more than 10,000 — 96 percent of all Eversource customers in the town — were left in the dark. In Dennis, 15,980 of the 17,085 Eversource customers, or 94 percent, were without power.

Advertisement

“This is going to be a multi-day restoration,” said Eversource spokeswoman Priscilla Ress. “The amount of damage done to electrical system is extensive.”

The heavy, wet snow and downed trees made travel difficult on the Cape, she said.

The storm buffeted the Massachusetts coast with gusts that reached 60 to 70 miles per hour, said Ress. Such high winds meant some crews couldn’t work safely in buckets that would need to be extended 40 feet above the ground in some cases.

The number of outages are expected to plummet once the winds die down, said Ress.

Hundreds of workers were on the Cape Tuesday night trying to restore the area’s power, she said. Eversource crews from Western Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire were being directed to Cape Cod to restore the power there, and the utility was using contractors from as far away as Canada, Indiana, and Florida, said Ress.

Shelter manager Jodi Wallace, of the American Red Cross, posted a welcome sign at Sandwich High School.
Barry Chin/Globe Staff
Shelter manager Jodi Wallace, of the American Red Cross, posted a welcome sign at Sandwich High School.

Leon Burke, 89, of Buzzards Bay, was checked into a shelter at Sandwich High School by Hannah Bourassa of Americorps Cape Cod after losing power in his home Tuesday morning.
Barry Chin/Globe Staff
Leon Burke, 89, of Buzzards Bay, was checked into a shelter at Sandwich High School by Hannah Bourassa of Americorps Cape Cod after losing power in his home Tuesday morning.

Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.