Massachusetts cleans up after escaping full brunt of storm
FREETOWN — Relieved that the state escaped the full brunt of Sandy’s fury, Massachusetts officials offered a hand to other hard-hit states in the region while monitoring the progress of utilities restoring power at home.
Gov. Deval Patrick said Tuesday that damage assessment teams that had been traveling the state since daybreak found no evidence of any serious infrastructure damage, though there were plenty of downed trees and damage to individual homes and businesses. About 290,000 Massachusetts residents remained without power as of 10 a.m., down from some 400,000 at the height of the storm on Monday.
“We feel very fortunate, particularly as you look at some of the scenes and read some of the reports from New York and New Jersey and Connecticut,” the governor said. “I’ve been in touch with either my counterparts or our (emergency management) counterparts to see what kind of things we can do by way of mutual aid as we are able to release assets and get back up on our feet here.”
Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, head of the Massachusetts National Guard, said Tuesday that two H-60 helicopters had been sent to New Jersey and a handful of soldiers were headed to Connecticut to assist. Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey said the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority was also prepared to offer technical assistance to New York City, if needed, to help restore service to its flooded subway system.
Many schools in Massachusetts remained closed, but residents in south coastal areas were mostly relieved that the 6-foot storm surge caused by the powerful hybrid storm did not cause more extensive damage.
Sarah Whittey, of Freetown, watched nervously Monday as water from the Assonet River rose behind her home, a historic house built in 1720 and known to local residents as “Aunt Kate’s House.”
“We have five steps in the back. When it came up to the second step, we were going to leave, but we saw it hold there so we decided to stay,” said Whittey.
“There were some prayers said on that back deck last night ... family first, friends, strangers, then property,” she added. “We were very, very lucky.”
At Grandpa’s Place, a variety store in Assonet, the parking lot was flooded when the river surged over its banks Monday evening and poured into nearby yards.
Owner Liz Borges said she and her husband borrowed a truck and started loading up goods from the store.
“We loaded everything — beer, wine, soda, candy — everything,” Borges said.
“As soon as we got everything loaded, the water started to go back down. We didn’t lose anything.”
Patrick said during a briefing at the state’s emergency management center in Framingham that 161 people spent the night in shelters around Massachusetts. Officials had opened enough shelters statewide to accommodate thousands, if necessary.
The focus on Tuesday was expected to shift to power restoration, with utilities expected to give projections later in the day on when all power would be restored to customers. The governor said the progress would be closely monitored.
“Now is the time for the utility companies to show us their performance, and more to the point, to show their customers their performance,” he said.
The power providers had been sharply criticized in the aftermath of two major storms last year in which some people waited a week for the lights to come back on.
Transportation was also returning to normal around the state on Tuesday. Service on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which shut down during the storm Monday, was fully restored by Tuesday with the exception of the D Branch of the Green Line, where buses were substituting for trolleys.
Ferry service also resumed to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.
There were no reports of damage to runways at Boston’s Logan International Airport, Patrick said. But commercial flight disruptions were expected to continue as a result of problems caused by the storm elsewhere along the East Coast.