Wind, rain from nor'easter lash Berkshires; power cut as trees take out wires
The winds roared, the rain came down in buckets, trees were uprooted, limbs quivered, and leaves flew off branches, clogging roads, driveways, sidewalks and storm drains.
The 18-hour nor’easter, dubbed a “bomb cyclone” by some forecasters, dropped about a month’s worth of rain on Berkshire County from Wednesday evening to Thursday afternoon, when the sun briefly tried to break through lingering storm clouds, with no success.
At Pittsfield Municipal Airport, 4.6 inches of rain had fallen by midafternoon at the National Weather Service’s automated observation system, a 24-hour record for mid-October. Average rainfall for the month, which is the wettest of the year, is 4.7 inches.
Apparently, Adams hit the rainfall jackpot, with more than 5 inches reported to the government forecast office by a weather observer.
Wind gusts of 46 mph were reported at the Pittsfield airport about 7 a.m. Thursday and at Harriman-and-West Airport in North Adams about 11 p.m. Wednesday.
At the height of the storm early Thursday morning, about 220,000 customers were affected by power blackouts statewide, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency reported. The total number of power failures across New England topped a half-million.
According to MEMA, New Ashford was the only Berkshire town completely without power around midday. In Lanesborough, a nearly total blackout was reported about 10:30 a.m. Thursday, police said. Service had been restored to most customers by about 1:30 p.m.
Lanesborough also lost power for a time Wednesday night, along most of the Main Street corridor.
As of early Thursday afternoon, MEMA's power outage map, which is updated every 15 minutes, showed widespread blackouts in Hancock and Sheffield, where nearly half of those customers were in the dark. Most other Berkshire communities had at least some customers awaiting restoration of power.
Scattered power blackouts caused by downed trees and wires had been reported in parts of Pittsfield, Great Barrington, Lee and Lenox early Thursday morning, in some cases caused by transformer explosions.
Some stores at the Berkshire Crossing shopping plaza on Hubbard Avenue in Pittsfield lost power or had their lights flicker briefly early in the day.
Road crews were busy removing downed trees and wires across the Berkshires on Thursday.
Lee Department of Public Works Superintendent Al Zerbato told The Eagle his workers spent the night removing downed trees on several roads in the west end of town, before heading back out Thursday morning for more cleanup duty.
"We've been clearing debris in the roads and leaves from storm drains," he said. "It's been a nightmare."
In Great Barrington, police said crews were removing trees blocking Prospect Hill Road, Lake Buel Road and Alford Road. In Williamstown, a downed tree was reported to have blocked a portion of New Ashford Road about 6 a.m. Thursday, but the road was cleared by midmorning, according to police.
In Adams, fallen trees had blocked two side roads — Bellevue Avenue and West Street — on Wednesday night, police said, but Route 8, which runs through the middle of the town, was clear.
A number of those trees were at the root of many of the power outages, according to local police and fire officials.
"We've been dealing mainly with trees and a lot of very dangerous situations with live wires," said Pittsfield Deputy Fire Chief Matthew Noyes.
Downed trees also were blamed for property damage in Lanesborough, a crushed car on Imperial Street, and whacking the backside of a home at Navin Avenue and Laurel Street (Route 20) in Lee.
Urban flooding made driving hazardous in the usual poor-drainage areas of Pittsfield, Adams, North Adams and Williamstown, but no river or small-stream flooding was reported because of dry weather this month.
The storm’s impact was even more severe in Eastern Massachusetts.
“It was a wild night with wind gusts up to 90 mph in Provincetown,” the National Weather Service’s Boston office tweeted. Its map of top wind gusts included 89 mph in Wellfleet, 80 mph in Duxbury and 70 mph at Logan International Airport in Boston. Hurricane-force winds are 74 mph and above.
“Unreal wind last night from the South Shore to Cape Cod,” Eric Fisher, a meteorologist with WBZ-TV in Boston, commented on Twitter.
Boston also smashed the record for lowest barometric pressure during October, at 28.80 inches. At Pittsfield Airport, the air pressure bottomed out at 29.03 inches, also likely a record for the month.
The term "bomb cyclone" refers to bombogenesis, a rapid deepening of a storm as measured in barometric pressure.
Snow dusted the summit of Stratton Mountain in southern Vermont, as well as on several other high peaks in the state’s Green Mountains, New Hampshire’s Whites and New York’s Adirondacks.
Staff writer Tony Dobrowolski contributed to this report.
Clarence Fanto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.
Dick Lindsay can be reached at email@example.com and 413-496-6233.
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