DANVERS — The clocks froze just after 3 a.m. Thursday morning when the brunt of the storm struck this suburban town and severed electricity to many of its neighborhoods. Violent winds sent trees smashing into bedrooms, but luckily spared the residents of injuries.
Meteorologists described the storm as a “bomb cyclone,” which occurs when atmospheric pressure plunges by 24 millibars in 24 hours. The storm strengthened quickly as it roared up the coastline, prompting a drop from 1000 millibars to 975.3 millibars in Boston. In general, the lower the air pressure, the stronger the storm. Providence, Boston and Nantucket saw all-time low pressure records for the month of October.
In Danvers, the worst of it blew through a neighborhood just south of the town center, where wind-tortured trees toppled onto homes and cars. After a night spent hunkering within their homes, residents emerged Thursday morning onto debris-strewn streets to marvel at the damage and the storm’s staggering strength.
John and Laurette Szostakowski, who live on Fowler Street, thought they had been spared the wind’s wrath but then gust around 10 a.m. swayed the second half of a split tree, which skewered the couple’s black Volvo and almost struck two people strolling by. John had just moved the SUV to avoid the power lines dangling in his driveway and seemed resigned to the tragic comedy of the situation
Around the block, at both ends of Arthur Street, the wind uprooted and toppled 50-foot oak trees across the road and into houses.
Doug Coffin watched in bewilderment as a machine with an arm that doubles as a claw and a saw carefully dismembered a fallen oak that rested on the front corner of his yellow three-story home. The tree crushed an upstairs bedroom belonging to his youngest daughter, but thankfully she has recently taken to sleeping alongside her sister and wasn’t in the room at the time of the crash.
“Things got crazy around 3 a.m. The wind was whipping in all directions,” said Coffin. “I could hear booms from trees falling nearby. Then it sounded like a truck drove through the front of the house.”
The swirl of sawdust and swinging machines halted briefly as Coffin snuck into the damaged bedroom to grab his daughter’s Halloween costume. He fears they’ll be spending the holiday at his mother’s house as their home is repaired.
At the opposite end of the drive, past downed power lines perched precariously above puddles, another toppled tree rested upon Shawn Elliot’s white Cape-style home, trapping and totaling the family’s two Jeeps.
“I felt a vibration when the sidewalk began lifting up and the tree started to fall,” said Elliot, who has lived in his Danvers home for 20 years. “It always looks like a war zone every time we have a big storm. There’s like a cloud that floats over us on this road.”
Indeed, when Hurricane Sandy swept through the town in 2012, a tree sliced through the home of Elliot’s neighbor. The new construction at that lot stood unscathed in a treeless yard on Thursday.
Each year, Elliott traditionally decks out his home with glowing and inflatable Christmas decorations and hosts a holiday party benefiting the Boston Children’s Hospital. He typically puts in 140 hours of labor decorating the house for the festivities, but this year he isn’t sure if the house will be fixed by then.
“That tree’s a little too big to decorate,” he said with a resigned chuckle.
No injuries have been reported in connection with the storm, but the gusts did cause some close calls.
Richard and Mary Ann Waldron have lived in their Arthur Street home for over two decades. Mary Ann uses a sound machine to sleep so she welcomed the howling winds as a natural soundtrack Wednesday night. When the storm strengthened around 3 a.m., Richard recommended she come downstairs in case a tree fell and struck the upper story. Mary Ann reluctantly relented and minutes later a branch pierced the side of their home. The couple rode out the rest of the night in the living room, Richard relegated to the floor while his “lovely wife of 37 years” got the couch.
Half a million people across the New England region were without power Thursday morning as a result of the storm. Authorities worked to restore lines but lingering gusts and damaged trees slowed repairs.
In Danvers, where severed power lines snaked along sidewalks and streets, outages lingered into the afternoon, closing restaurants and disabling stoplights.
After navigating the free-for-all Endicott Street intersection at the Liberty Tree Mall, cars flocked to Home Depot. Under the dusk of the store’s emergency lighting, customers unconvinced of a speedy return of power picked up generators and flashlights. Others snagged saws and yards of rope before returning to the dangling limbs and downed trees of their neighborhoods.