Blizzard Knocks Out Power To Thousands

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Storms

A utility crew repairs power lines on Depot Road in Chatham last Wednesday. TIM WOOD PHOTO

Heavy, wet snow and high winds knocked out power for much of Cape Cod Tuesday and into Wednesday. It was the second time in less than two weeks that a storm caused widespread outages, and the third major storm in that period.

As of Thursday, power had been restored to most of the region, although about 10 percent of Harwich remained out. Check real-time outage information here.

Crews were out in force Wednesday and Thursday, repairing poles and wires and assessing situations neighborhood-by-neighborhood.

The Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee opened three regional shelters late Tuesday, including the Cape Cod Tech school in Pleasant Lake. It remained open Thursday. The Regional Transit Authority was providing transportation to the shelter for those who cannot get there on their own.  Officials said people who need transportation should contact their police or fire department. 

Schools were back in session Thursday, except for Cape Cod Tech, which remained closed while it was open as a shelter.

The late-season blizzard, the third major coastal storm of the season, plastered the Lower Cape with a thick layer of wet snow Tuesday.

While the snow was fluffy and dry in inland areas, the snow that fell on the Lower Cape coated tree limbs and power lines.  That, coupled with winds that gusted 70 mph or higher, caused thousands of people to lose electrical service.

As of Tuesday afternoon, all 8,473 customers in Chatham were without electricity, while more than 90 percent of Harwich and 80 percent of Orleans customers were in the dark.  Cape-wide, nearly 120,000 people were without power.

Though initial forecasts called for the Cape to receive mostly rain with only an inch or two of slushy snow, by Monday morning it was clear that the storm would track further to the east, bringing more wintry weather to the Lower Cape.  Crews from MassHighway and town DPW trucks attacked the snow as soon as it began falling, and major roads remained passable throughout the storm.

The exceptions were roads blocked by trees and other storm debris.  Route 28 in West Harwich was blocked for a time near the Herring River because of downed utility poles.  On Oak Road in Orleans, a utility pole snapped near the top, dropping the cross-arms and a transformer into the street below.

On Mill Creek Road in South Chatham, the top of a tall spruce tree broke away and landed on a car below; a tree branch also landed on a vehicle on Guilford Drive in Harwich.  There were no injuries in either case.

There were no reports of significant coastal flooding during the Tuesday mid-morning high tide, despite a predicted storm surge of between two and three feet and stiff northeasterly winds.  There was some wave action in Chatham Harbor, but little damage, according to Harbormaster Stuart Smith.

“Everything was broken from the last storm,” he quipped.

A popular venue for sledding, Eastward Ho! Country Club, will be off limits to sledders for this storm only.  A club spokesman said there are downed branches on the golf course, and a damaged utility pole in an area frequented by sledders.  The club will continue to allow the practice in the future.

Monomoy, Cape Tech and the Nauset schools were closed Tuesday and Wednesday.