‘A pretty good whack’: Tropical Storm Isaias causes widespread damage, loss of power

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  • An oak tree rests on the roof at the home of Kerry Braman on Acrebrook Drive in Florence, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, downed by Tropical Storm Isaias. "It was loud. The whole house shook. It was almost like thunder from lightning striking right next to you," Braman said. A pine tree also fell. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • An oak tree rests on the roof of Kerry Braman’s home on Acrebrook Drive in Florence on Tuesday, downed by Tropical Storm Isaias. “It was loud. The whole house shook. It was almost like thunder from lightning striking right next to you,” Braman said. A pine tree also fell. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A felled branch blocks Orchard Street in Northampton, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 after Tropical Strom Isaias moved through the region. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • The branch of an oak tree extends into a bedroom at the home of Kerry Braman on Acrebrook Drive in Florence on Tuesday after it was felled by Tropical Storm Isaias. The room wasn’t occupied at the time, but Braman and one of her sons, Riley, 16, were home. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Prospect Street in Northampton is closed to traffic Tuesday as workers repair downed power lines caused by Tropical Storm Isaias. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Utility lines felled during Tropical Storm Isaias, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 cause the closure of King Street in Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 8/4/2020 8:18:04 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Kerry Braman had just dozed off while watching Netflix in her Acrebrook Drive home on Tuesday afternoon around 5 when she was suddenly awoken by a deafening noise.

“It was almost as if you could imagine the loudest thunder and lightning cracking at the same time, combined, and then just your whole house shaking,” Braman said Wednesday. “I had no idea what it was.”

Turns out the sound Braman heard was that of an oak tree that had fallen onto her house, through her roof and into her 17-year-old son Ryan’s bedroom, who was not home at the time, during Tropical Storm Isaias. The oak had also taken down a pine tree as it fell, she said, but that didn’t do as much damage.

Now, Braman said there’s fencing that needs to be replaced, as well as parts of the outside, inside and roof of her home. She has yet to get the damage appraised so she doesn’t know how much money it will cost. But Braman said she’s thankful no one was hurt, especially because her 16-year-old son Riley was home playing Xbox at the time in his bedroom.

“I’m grateful. My kids are safe, my animals are safe, I’m safe,” Braman said. “It could have been much worse.”

Tuesday’s storm brought down power lines and overturned trees up and down the Eastern Seaboard. Hayden Frank, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Isaias had passed to the west of New England, bringing strong winds measuring 45 to 60 mph across the area to the right of the storm’s track. Areas to the left of the storm’s track, such as New York and Pennsylvania, saw weather that was more rainy than it was windy, he said.

But trees in full foliage and an unusual wind direction created a recipe for damage in this area, Frank said: “And that’s exactly what happened.”

Isaias battered the East Coast on Tuesday, leaving at least eight people dead and millions without power into Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. As of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, 80,115 customers in Massachusetts were without power, according to an outage map of four non-municipally owned power companies provided by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA). In Hampshire County at that time, 6,755 of 64,373 total customers — or about 10% — were without power, according to the map.

There were a reported 3,577 customers in Belchertown, 1,892 customers in Ware, 282 in Shutesbury, 245 in Middlefield, 237 in Huntington, and 197 customers in Pelham without power, along with dozens of residences in other area communities, according to MEMA’s data.

In Easthampton, Police Lt. Dennis Scribner said the department kept its daytime shift employees on into the evening on Tuesday to help respond to multiple reports of downed power lines and trees. The first call came in around 2:30 p.m., Scribner said, for a power failure near Loudville Road and Torey Street with primary power lines down in the intersection.

“That was really the onset,” Scribner said.

Throughout the afternoon, emergency crews were responding to Holyoke Street, Lussier Circle, Liberty Street and other areas for downed power lines and trees. Police had to close down Loudville Road and Holyoke Street, Scribner said, but those roads were reopened around 7 p.m. A tree did fall on an occupied car on East Street but that person was not injured.

“It was surreal, even just driving on patrol — trees were coming down in force,” Scribner said. Calls about storm damage died down around 6 p.m., he said. According to the MEMA map, 219 customers were still without power Wednesday afternoon.

Felled trees

Northampton Deputy Fire Chief Stephen Vanasse reported that on Wednesday morning, Round Hill and Bancroft roads were still blocked because of felled trees and power lines. He said the department took 40 calls throughout the storm, though many were not major, such as a tree limb hanging from a wire.

“It was standard as far as storms go,” Vanasse said, adding that he wasn’t aware of any reported injuries.

To the west, in Huntington, Highway Superintendent Charles Dazelle said Wednesday that Goss Hill and Harlow Clark Road were still blocked off due to downed trees and power lines. He said three families on Harlow Clark Road were “trapped inside” because power lines and trees were still down near their homes.

Dazelle said he hasn’t yet received any confirmation from Eversource about when the utility will come to Huntington to help fix the downed power lines. He said part of the reason why people are still stuck on Harlow Clark Road is because the town isn’t sure if the downed wires are still live. About 237 customers were without power Wednesday afternoon, the MEMA map said.

“People are calling us and we have no answers,” he said. “It’s terrible.”

Across the Connecticut River, Hadley Fire Chief Michael Spanknebel had similar reports of downed trees and power lines from the storm. He said power lines went down in the Amherst section of Bay Road and caused power outages in Hadley. As of Wednesday, Spanknebel said he was still working with Eversource to shut off downed lines. Twenty-five customers were without power Wednesday afternoon, according to the MEMA map.

“We had pretty substantial damage,” he said.

Amherst Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson also noted the downed power lines on Bay Road, as well as felled trees and power lines on Pomeroy Lane from State Street down to North Pleasant Street. Some of these areas were still partially blocked as of Wednesday afternoon, he said. The MEMA map reported 31 customers out of power in Amherst Wednesday afternoon.

“We took a pretty good whack,” Nelson said, “but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.”

Parts of Hampshire County were placed on a tornado warning Sunday evening, though no tornadoes were reported locally. During Tuesday’s storm, the state of Massachusetts was put on a tornado watch, a less serious state of alert.

Frank, the weather service meteorologist, said it’s not unusual for such weather to happen this time of year. He said the weather service generally forecasts seven days ahead, and that there was “nothing tropical” threatening the area as of Wednesday afternoon.

“This time of year, late May, June, July and August is the peak severe weather season,” Frank said.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.

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