Trees, power lines down as Sandy moves through Valley
A fallen tree blocks East Street near Pleasant Street in Southampton Tuesday night. Lights of varied colors from a Southampton Police cruiser add to the spectacle. Purchase photo reprints »
Amherst police respond to a fallen tree on Pleasant street just after 7PM Monday, when forecasters predicted the heaviest winds and rainfall from Sandy. Fortunately none of the occupants of the five bedroom house were harmed.
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Utility crews work to repair downed power lines at the intersection of Rocky Hill Road and University Avenue in Amherst Monday night.
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As Superstorm Sandy slammed ashore in New Jersey Monday night, the Pioneer Valley was hit with high winds and some rain, and many residents heeded warnings to stay indoors.
Though the winds downed trees and power lines and damaged some buildings, the damage did not rival that of the freak snowstorm of Oct. 29 and 30, 2011, that left much of the state without power for days.
At the Red Cross shelter set up at Smith Vocational and Agricultural School, 21 people had arrived by 9 p.m. Monday to have a meal and get a cot for the night.
Ellen Patashnick, co-manager of the shelter, said it had a capacity of 25 people, as well as separate space where guests could keep their pets. But no pets were present Monday night.
One of the guests, Jeffrey Bubar, said he was not taking any chances that he would lose power again at Cahill Apartments, as happened last October.
“I’ll stay here overnight and make sure the power is still on,” Bubar said.
Others came from farther away. “Some traveled a great distance for comfort,” said Jane Robinson, a disaster action volunteer from Wilbraham, who observed that the volunteers did, as well, including Ellen and Michael Patashnick of Springfield, Sonia Burke of West Brookfield and Jerome Imhoff of Enfield, Conn.
It was uncertain if the shelter would be needed for a second day, a decision Red Cross of Pioneer Valley anticipated making Tuesday. “Like a blank check, we’ll stay here until we’re not needed,” Imhoff said.
He praised the cooperation of the school and Northampton police. “They keep people on site 24 hours a day,” Imhoff said. “They make our jobs really easy.”
The Northampton command center in the fire station was receiving fewer calls as the evening wore on.
“We’re in good shape compared to what’s going on in the eastern part of the state,” said John Davine, a deputy fire chief.
The center, where Mayor David Narkewicz was stationed for several hours, received reports of about a half dozen trees and limbs down in the city.
Davine said officials would reevaluate Tuesday morning whether the command center needed to remain open.
Also there were Dave Landry, a community liaison from National Grid, Deputy Fire Chief Steve Vanasse and building commissioner Louis Hasbrouck.
“It’s been really quiet,” Hasbrouck said.
Trees down in Amherst
Amherst Town Manager John Musante said the emergency operations center there worked smoothly and most people observed the two Reverse 911 calls he made Monday to stay indoors and off the roads, so emergency crews could do their jobs.
Trees came down on several roads, including Amity, South Pleasant and South East streets, resulting in some power outages. The cleanup was handled by a combination of the Department of Public Works and Western Massachusetts Electric Co., he said.
Musante said the homeless shelter successfully opened at the First Baptist Church to ensure up to 22 homeless individuals had a place to stay and keep out of the weather.
A tree fell onto the roof of a home at 425 South Pleasant St. around 7 p.m., but no one was injured and there was no emergency for the residents, said Police Sgt. Charles Nelson.
Southampton street closed
A section of East Street in Southampton was closed about 6 p.m. for what Police Chief David Silvernail described as “multiple trees down, multiple poles down, and multiple wires down.”
Officers parked cruisers to block the street in the area of 194 East St., near County Road, where a tree lay across the entire street, and at the intersection of East and Pleasant streets, where a large tree was suspended across the road, hanging in the power lines.
Silvernail said the worst damage was along a half-mile stretch of East Street between Middle Road and Whispering Meadows Lane, but town crews could not get in to assess the number of poles down until the electric company finished its work.
“WMECO is there and we need them to deaden the wires. Then we can get in there and clean up once they’ve determined it’s safe,” he said.
A few miles away at Opa-Opa Steakhouse and Brewery, the lights were blazing, music was playing and the kitchen was open, but only one patron sat at the bar, and the restaurant area was empty.
“It was pretty steady for most of the day,” said bartender Heidi Phillips. “But the restaurant hasn’t had a customer in hours.”
Still, she said the eatery would remain open until 10, “or until we lose power.”
She said she was hoping most of all that the storm would not cause outages like the snowstorm a year ago. “We were closed the whole week,” she said, adding how much the lost wages hurt. “And we lost most of the food here, too.”
Her sole patron, Michael Bashista, said he was not too worried about how he would get home to his house on Pleasant Street, despite the reports of downed branches.
“I have a one-ton truck and if worst comes to worst, I have a chain and I could drag a branch out of the road if I had to,” he said. “We’ll see.”
Downtown Northampton was deserted Monday night around 7:30, with businesses from Dunkin’ Donuts to Pinocchio Pizzeria shutting their doors early due to a lack of customers. On the sidewalks, awnings whipped in the wind and a few sandwich-board signs toppled over.
Only a few people ate dinner at Teapot Restaurant, one of the few eateries that stayed open.
One couple that ventured into the stormy evening appeared unperturbed with the wind and rain.
“We’re from Australia, so we’re accustomed to this kind of weather,” said Peter Arnold. He and his wife, Karen Arnold, are from Perth in western Australia, where tropical storms are common. They were surprised at all the hoopla Sandy was causing.
The self-described “leaf peepers” decided to brave the city sidewalks to find some entertainment after sitting in their room at the Hotel Northampton got “a bit boring,” Peter Arnold said.