Hundreds of Thousands in the Dark from Mass Storm

Posted by jcashman

Courtesy of Associated Press

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (AP) — It could be days before power is restored to all of the hundreds of thousands of people who lost it during an early-season weekend storm that dumped wet, heavy snow across the state, particularly in western and central Massachusetts.

Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency, allowing him to mobilize the National Guard to help hard-hit cities and towns. Soldiers were out Sunday morning helping chainsaw crews remove fallen trees so utility workers could get to downed wires.

“It’s not only a lot of snow, but a lot of the heaviest wettest snow that you ever want to see out there,” said Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

More than 670,000 customers were without power as of noon Sunday. Crews were working to restore electricity to hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities first and could not say how long it might take to get power back on for everyone.

“This is not going to be a quick fix,” Judge said. “It’s totally smashing any historical records.”

In a Northampton neighborhood, Dale Carhardt shoveled the sidewalk for neighbor Janet Richards. Neither had power Sunday afternoon, but both were taking it in stride.

“I’m not sure about tonight, if I should stay in a motel or not,” Richards said. “At some point in time I’ll decide, but until then, there’s not much to do, read, take a walk around, stuff like that.”

Before this weekend, most parts of Massachusetts had seen no more than an inch of snow from an October storm, with the record closer to 6 inches in higher elevations. Some places in western Massachusetts got as much as 29 inches from Saturday into Sunday.

A train from Chicago to Boston got stuck Saturday night in Palmer, Mass., when a rockslide caused by the storm blocked the tracks about 10 p.m.

Amtrak spokeswoman Vernae Graham said the 48 passengers who spent the night on-board had heat and electricity and were given free food and drinks. Buses arrived about 11 a.m. Sunday to take them to their destinations.

Train service was suspended in much of the northeast corridor, including between Boston and Providence and between New Haven, Conn., and Springfield, Mass.

In Ashburnham, in the northern part of the state, Sarah Arel was shoveling and raking snow off the roof of her 1780s farmhouse Sunday morning.

“It’s beautifully white,” she said. “However, it’s very deep, very heavy, and we must have gotten over 20 inches.”

She said she and her husband were surprised to see so much snow in October.

“I did not expect this at all,” she said. “Winter is not our favorite season. This is a little bit too early knowing how long winter lasts.”

At least one death was blamed on the storm, a 20-year-old Springfield man electrocuted when he stopped near police and firefighters examining downed wires, police Capt. William Collins said. Power was out in much of the city and lines were down all over.

Just two months ago, Irene knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people and some remained in the dark for a week, prompting complaints about how utilities responded.

“It’s a little startling. I mean, it’s only October,” said Craig Brodur, who was playing keno with a friend at Northampton Convenience in western Massachusetts when the power went out Saturday night, forcing the half-dozen people inside to scatter.

The forbidding forecast had Boston Mayor Thomas Menino urging Occupy Boston activists who’ve been camped out on a downtown square for weeks in an anti-Wall Street protest to leave for the night.

But media volunteer Jason Potteiger said that about 200 people still staying in tents at the site were in good spirits and the people running the food tent had more donations of hot meals than they knew what to do with.

“The term solidarity is used a lot in this movement, and I think the sentiment that’s all over camp is that if Oakland and Denver can make it through tear gas and rubber bullets, we can make it through a little snow and sleet,” he said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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Posted by jcashman on Oct 30 2011. Filed under Featured - For home page featured article, General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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