Utility crews were working to restore electricity to more than 400,000 customers across New England while keeping a wary eye on the skies and the still-turbulent weather whirling across the region Thursday.
In Massachusetts, an estimated 153,084 customers were without power as of about 3 p.m. Some of those people have been in the dark since a powerful ocean storm overnight brought heavy rain and damaging winds that gusted up to 90 miles per hour in Provincetown and 70 miles per hour at Logan International Airport in Boston.
Terry MacCormack, a spokesman for Governor Charlie Baker’s administration, said in a statement that the “Baker-Polito Administration and MEMA are monitoring conditions across the Commonwealth and will continue coordinating response efforts with local officials and utility companies to clean up debris, restore power and support our communities as they recover from this powerful storm.”
Baker’s office also provided a transcript of comments the popular Republican governor made earlier Thursday during a press scrum at the State House.
“Well, first of all, the storm was pretty much as advertised, which means it was a coastal storm primarily,” Baker said. “Plymouth County and a little bit south and a lot of the North Shore — and it reached winds in some cases that were reported as high as 90 miles an hour in some of the gusts and it had significant impact on trees and a significant impact, as a result of the impact on trees, on power lines.”
Baker continued, “I think there were around 200,000 homes without power early this morning. The biggest challenge that municipalities and their electric companies and the utilities have is the fact that the fact that the wind, the gusts, have continued throughout most of the morning, which is going to limit their ability to get up on the trucks and restore power. I would expect that this is going to be a rolling restoration, and it will probably take place over the course of today and probably into tomorrow as well.”
At one point Thursday, the total number of customers who had lost power in New England climbed to more than 500,000, including five Massachusetts towns that were completely without power – Aquinnah, Essex, New Ashford, Petersham, and Warwick. A
Strong to damaging winds are expected to continue through the afternoon, though they won’t be as bad as last night, the National Weather Service said. The winds in much of the region are expected to gust up to 40 to 55 miles per hour.
In an interview with Greg Hill on WEEI-AM Thursday morning, Governor Charlie Baker said he expected utilities to make restoration “job No. 1.”
Baker said he lost power at his Swampscott home “briefly” at 2:30 a.m. and was relieved to see that a linden tree in his backyard was not knocked over by the wind.
While knocking out people’s lights, the storm also broke a record. The atmospheric pressure at Logan dropped to 975.3 millibars at 4:54 a.m., which was a record low for a storm in Boston in the month of October. The previous record was 982.4 millibars, set in October 2006.
Eversource said on its power outage Web page around 3 p.m. that 59,000 customers were without power in Eastern Massachusetts, along with about 3,100 in Western Massachusetts.
Reid Lamberty, spokesman for Eversource, noted problems could continue.
“We are dealing with wind conditions,’’ he said. “Wind gusts are expected to pick up later today. So we are in the middle of the storm, so it’s hard to say when customers will get power back. . . . Be patient. Know that we are out there and working as quickly as we can and as safely as we can.”
Eversource is also working to restore power to an estimated 15,000 customers in New Hampshire and 34,000 in Connecticut. Historically, Eversource would reach out to another utility for help, but he noted that “this storm is a wind event that is widespread. It’s affected customers all across the utilities so mutual assistance in the short term might be difficult.”
However, he said, Eversource is capable of dealing with the surge in emergency repairs.
“We do have the manpower. We do have our own crews,’’ he said.
In a statement posted to its website, National Grid noted that “crews are deployed and assisting with damage and restoration efforts in Massachusetts where conditions have been deemed safe. Our first priority is responding to emergencies, opening roads and restoring critical locations, such as hospitals and nursing homes.”
Restoration times will be determined “as they become available.”
National Grid was working to restore power to about 90,000 Massachusetts customers and more than 30,000 Rhode Island customers shortly before 11 a.m.
The storm made the morning commute in some areas difficult at best and led to school cancellations in districts on the North and South shores.
“It’s a mess this morning,” the Hamilton Police Department wrote on Facebook. “There are trees down everywhere.”
The operator of the MBTA’s commuter rail service, Keolis Commuter Services, experienced severe delays during the Thursday morning commute because of still-challenging weather conditions, along with damage from the winds and rain.
An afternoon service alert said: “Normal service has resumed on all lines but residual delays may occur due to earlier flooding or downed trees from last night’s storm.”
Rainfall totals in Massachusetts ranged from 1.76 inches in Acushnet to 4.1 inches in Monson, the weather service reported.
Police and fire departments across the state reported fallen tree limbs and power lines as a result of the overnight storm. School districts that canceled classes included Athol-Royalton Regional, Barnstable, Beverly, Cohasset, Danvers, Duxbury, Falmouth, Hamilton-Wenham Regional, Lynnfield, Manchester Essex Regional, Marshfield, Norwell, Rockport, Salem, Halifax, Plympton, Kingston, and Silver Lake Regional.
In the Pentucket Regional School District, classes were canceled at the high school and middle school in West Newbury, and all elementary schools were delayed two hours.
Elsewhere in New England, Central Maine Power reported about 148,000 customers were without electricity as were about 40,000 customers of the Emera Maine utility as of around 3 p.m. Green Mountain Power in Vermont reported 5,770 outages statewide.
Cohasset Police Chief William P. Quigley said many roads were blocked in town.
“Cohasset and surrounding areas were hit by an intense rain and wind event overnight which caused trees to fall and powerlines to become compromised,” Quigley said in a townwide alert. “Many roads in town are blocked and power wires are in the roadway. School has been canceled in Cohasset and crews are working to restore power and open road. Please use caution when traveling today. We will provide updates as necessary.”
In Duxbury, firefighters responded to a large pine tree that had fallen onto a home, causing structural damage, according to a tweet.
In Haverhill, a firefighter was injured at the scene of a structure fire on State Street, according to a tweet from the city firefighters’ union, IAFF Local 1011. “One of our own was injured during the fire and was transported as a precaution,” the tweet said.
Fire Chief William F. Laliberty said the fire lieutenant was at a house fire caused by a tree knocking downed power lines into a house. The lieutenant received an electrical shock and was evaluated at the scene and taken to Lawrence General Hospital for further evaluation. He was released by late afternoon Thursday, the chief said.
In Danvers, schools and Town Hall were closed Thursday morning, and the town’s official Twitter feed said Danvers “lost several major circuits last night and branches down on isolated wires, causing outages in Town this morning.”
Danvers police tweeted Thursday morning that “all traffic signals are [temporarily] out” and urged motorists to use caution. In addition, police tweeted, several roads were closed to traffic.
Boats ended up washing up on the shore of several coastal communities.
The Gloucester harbormaster confirmed that two large cruise ships sought refuge by anchoring in Ipswich Bay on the northeastern side of Gloucester.
In addition to winds continuing Thursday, rain was expected to return. Showers are expected to redevelop, with the activity most persistent across Western and North Central Massachusetts in higher elevations. Temperatures are expected to remain brisk, in the upper 40s to mid-50s, the weather service said.