Strong wind gusts that developed overnight wreaked havoc on morning commuters and left thousands in the region without power, closing numerous roads temporarily due to downed trees and branches, but police and town officials around the region said cleanup efforts progressed well Wednesday and reported no significant injuries as a result of the storm.
The overnight nor’easter brought considerable rain followed by sustained winds of 30 mph at Westerly Airport with gusts exceeding 40 mph, according to data from the National Weather Service. Westerly Police Chief and interim Town Manager Shawn Lacey said the storm seemed to reach a peak at around 5 a.m. Wednesday, with calls coming steadily until about 8:30 a.m. before things appeared to settle quickly.
“It seemed to really pick up around 5 o’clock. We suddenly became inundated with calls, mainly regarding downed wires and partially or fully blocked roads,” Lacey said. “We were fortunate that there were no major outages or flooding, but we have had sporadic outages throughout the community.”
According to National Grid, the nor’easter caused outages statewide that left more than 92,000 of the company’s half-million customers without electrical services. In Westerly, the number of outages topped 1,200 by mid-morning and 1,046 customers were still without electricity as of 4 p.m. Officials indicated that the Bradford School property, which now serves as office space for Parks and Recreation workers, was one of the town facilities impacted by outages. The company did not have time estimates for restoration as of late afternoon.
Charlestown was also hit hard by the storm, and town officials said that the winds left numerous roads impassable, as well as leaving 30% of the community in the dark. The issues continued through the morning, with calls continuing through 11 a.m. when downed, active wires and fallen tree limbs were reported on Lady Slipper Lane.
Most of the serious damage in Charlestown was contained to side streets and residential roads, and officials said staff with the Department of Public Works were continuing to work to address problems with debris but were making good progress.
National Grid was continuing to work on restoring electrical services late Wednesday afternoon, but 1,535 Charlestown customers were still without power by 4 p.m. Estimates by National Grid showed that services were expected to be restored to the last customer by 9:15 a.m. Thursday, although those the company said estimates are subject to change as weather patterns shift and repair needs are more directly identified.
Both Hopkinton and Richmond fared slightly better, with no more than 10% of either community out at any time. By 4 p.m. Wednesday, 759 outages remained in Hopkinton and 387 in Richmond.
National Grid said in a press release that the company had 2,400 field workers responding to outages in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and was working to restore all services as quickly as possible.
“We’ve seen significant impact to our system as a result of downed trees, limbs, poles and wires, and we have also sustained damage to some transmission lines feeding substations, which results in widespread community outages,” said Michael McCallan, vice president of New England electric operations for National Grid. “We remain focused on public safety today as our line and forestry workers work to assess and repair power systems in affected communities. We will be prioritizing those repairs that will return service to the largest number of customers first, and will of course continue to work until every customer has their electricity back.”
In Connecticut, both Stonington and North Stonington sustained damage to trees, several blocked roads and wires down during the early morning hours, officials confirmed. The storm appeared to be set to have a significant impact on morning travel, but fortunately the issues began to subside after a short period of time.
Among the issues reported in Stonington were wires down and arcing along South Anguilla Road, and trees down on wires at North Anguilla Road and Elm Ridge Road. Police also responded to an early afternoon crash involving a car that struck a stone wall along North Anguilla Road.
Eversource equipment throughout Connecticut sustained minor damage, the company said in a press release, with sporadic outages reported at the start of the day. By 4 p.m., however, there were just over 5,500 total outages remaining among Eversource’s 1.29 million customers, including only 46 outages remaining in Stonington and North Stonington combined. Police also reported no road closures as of that time.
Lacey said from the way the storm started, things could have ended up a lot worse.
“All the calls just kind of stopped around 8:30 a.m., and it gave us a chance to get a jump on some of the problems,” he said. “We have no major issues, no unexpected flooding and the Public Works guys are continuing to work hard to finish cleaning it all up.”