Governor Baker says state will seek federal disaster relief after Cape tornado
HARWICH — Governor Charlie Baker said Wednesday that state officials will seek federal assistance to support recovery efforts on Cape Cod, after two tornadoes touched down the day before and damaged property, felled trees and utility poles, and left thousands of residents without power.
Speaking during an afternoon press briefing, Baker said the state will “pursue any and all avenues available to us” to seek federal funds to aid in the cleanup effort. He said it will take “a few days to collect the data required” to submit to federal authorities.
“We need more resources on the ground, and we get that,” Baker said.
The National Weather Service on Wednesday explained how the twisters developed so quickly across the Cape.
A thunderstorm produced waterspouts on both Vineyard Sound and Nantucket Sound, and one of those moved onshore as a tornado at 11:57 a.m. just west of Kalmus Beach in Hyannis, according to the service.
The tornado moved in a northeast direction at about 35 miles per hour. With winds estimated as high as 110 miles per hour, it tore a roof off Cape Sands Inn in Yarmouth and also caused significant damage just southwest of the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School, the service said
The twister uprooted dozens of large trees, and snapped others in half. Its path was about 5½ miles long. The tornado had a “discontinuous path and lifted in South Yarmouth,” the service said.
At 12:10 p.m., the same storm produced a second tornado in Harwich, which touched down near the town center, just east of an elementary school and south of Parallel Street, forecasters said.
It travelled about 2.7 miles, uprooting at least 150 hardwood trees and ripping shingles off homes. The twister moved northeast, passing just south of Cranberry Valley Golf Course and lifted near the vicinity of Queen Anne Road, according to the weather service.
On Wednesday, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said more than 700 crews had fanned out across Cape Cod to clear debris and restore power.
Shortly after 9 p.m., more than 10,000 utility customers were still without power on the Cape, according to MEMA.
Eversource, one of the utilities that serves the Cape, said it expected to fully restore power to its affected customers by 6 p.m. Friday.
“It’s very hard at this point to calculate how much debris and how much damage has been created by this because, first of all, people are very focused on removing debris and very focused on getting roads open and very focused on dealing with the very real issues that residents and businesses have with respect to being able to get back in to and out of their property,” Baker said Wednesday afternoon.
Cape Sands Inn in Yarmouth, which lost part of its roof to the powerful wind gusts, was focused Wednesday on the cleanup and inspection of the property.
Rodney Kashem, one of the owners, said cleanup and inspection on the side of the inn that lost its roof are underway.
He had hoped to operate two wings of the hotel not damaged by the tornado. But town officials on Wednesday determined that the fire panels for the inn were not working and there were issues with the electricity, so the inn is shut down for the time being, he said.
It could be two weeks before the premises is able to reopen, Kashem said Wednesday night. He said people with reservations were calling nonstop Wednesday to see whether it would remain open.
Some people, Kashem said, “are getting upset” at the uncertainty and inconvenience, but most understand “that the situation is beyond our control.”
He said the inn is completely booked for the next three weeks, the height of the summer tourist season.
“It couldn’t be at a worse time,” Kashem said.
In West Harwich, Lisa Russo and her husband Larry were clearing their yard of debris and tree branches on Wednesday, and marveling at the strength of the tornado, which knocked a tree onto their neighbor’s car.
“Holy cow, it’s like a war zone,” Russo, 58, said.
She was in Boston during the storm, but got a text from her mother saying she was taking shelter in the basement.
The Russos moved to the Cape last fall from Boston, looking for a little relaxation in retirement. It hasn’t quite been that.
“This is paradise? You can’t go swimming, because of sharks. We can’t walk outside because it’s a tornado,” Russo said. “This is great.”
Joseph Manley is a third-generation foreman at his family’s tree and landscaping business and spends his summers on Cape Cod. He was working Tuesday near the Bass River in Yarmouth, and weathered one of the tornadoes in his truck.
“We actually witnessed trees uprooting all around us,” he said.
When he emerged from the truck, the area “was just mangled.”
“Trees and wires just all over the place,” he said Wednesday.
He said the strong winds from the storm rocked his truck back-and-forth.
“It definitely got your adrenaline racing, just being in the middle of it all,” said Manley, 31. “It was pretty wild.”
Travis Andersen of Globe staff contributed to this report.