To see more pictures of Berkshire County flooding, click here.

Monday August 29, 2011

Tropical Storm Irene battered some areas of the Berkshires while only grazing others, leaving in its wake a patchwork of flooded homes, washed out roads and those surprised that the predicted tumult didn't come their way.

Flooding led to the widespread closure of roads as well as numerous evacuations, including of The Spruces mobile home park in Williamstown and Pomeroy Manor apartments in Dalton. Homes in towns from Adams to Sandisfield were also evacuated in the midst of rising waters. In New Marlborough, waters were so high they crested the town's bridges and blocked access to some areas.

County rainfalls topped out at 8.9 inches in Savoy, and Otis saw the highest winds of 44 mph.

Originating as a hurricane, Irene has contributed to at least 21 deaths and an estimated $7 billion in damages across the eastern seaboard.

Some of the most severe problems the tropical storm brought to the Berkshire region included swollen rivers, including the Farmington, Green, Hoosic, Deerfield and Westfield, and two mudslides -- one in Charlemont and another in North Adams, which exposed a gas line.

Approximately 900 homes in the Berkshires were still without power on Sunday night, with the highest portion of households affected in the South County towns of Monterey and Tyringham, where 21 and 18 percent of customers were left without electricity, respectively.

Both Western Massachusetts Electric Co. and National Grid said their crews are already at work in the county to bring back electricity, although some customers may still have to wait.

"We may see some longer outages," said National Grid spokeswoman Amy Zorich. "We'll be restoring customers as quickly as possible, but it could extend into next weekend."

With the winds picking up again Sunday night, officials expressed concern that trees could still fall and knock out power lines in the hours to come. Rivers were also expected to continue to swell into the evening, posing continued flood worries.

In Peru, some people remain stuck in their houses after the rain washed out the newly repaved Middlefield Road, leaving large gulleys in between driveways and the road, officials said. One family may take days to extricate because the gap is up to eight feet wide, according to Peru Fire Chief Eric Autenrieth.

"We talked to them across the gulley and said we're working to get them out," he said.

Early reports of a breach in the Big Robin Dam in Becket's Sherwood Forest were not later confirmed by state police, although there were many areas of flooded roadway.

Sandisfield resident Sonja Gray said that the electricity at her home has been out since this morning, and while she has been able to stay in her house at the top of a hill, several friends who live on the banks of the Farmington River were evacuated to the town fire house.

The Pittsfield area saw localized flooding and a handful of downed trees and wires, an outcome much better than had been predicted.

"Come noontime, things have slowed down tremendously," said Pittsfield Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski. "Our call volume was not what was expected."

While rains were steady in Pittsfield throughout Sunday, closing sections of Hubbard and Lebanon avenues, Merrill and Mountain roads and West Housatonic Street, damage was kept to a minimum. Some city homes and businesses experienced basement flooding, 198 homes were without power, and about 15 to 20 people were utilizing the emergency shelter at Reid Middle School, officials said. Nonetheless, Czerwinski estimated that there were only about 12 trees felled by the rain and fewer than predicated downed wires.

"I would say we survived almost unscathed, considering what could have been," said Pittsfield Fire Deputy Keith Phillips.

Out and about on Sunday afternoon, many Pittsfield residents were perplexed but relieved that the storm hadn't had more of an impact.

Pittsfield resident Kathleen Rivera, 50, said she'd prepared a whole slew of meals for her family in preparation for a power outage, although it turned out she didn't need them.

"I just praise God that it didn't get as bad as they thought," she said.

Information from the North Adams Transcript was used in this report.

To reach Amanda Korman:

(413) 496-6243