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Heavy winds knock out power in Franklin County

  • A downed pine tree in the backyard of the Larouche home on Bernardston Road in Greenfield Tuesday after strong winds passed through. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • A downed pine tree in the backyard of the Larouche home on Bernardston Road in Greenfield Tuesday after strong winds passed through. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • A downed pine tree in the backyard of the Larouche home on Bernardston Road in Greenfield Tuesday after strong winds passed through. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt



Recorder Staff
Tuesday, March 01, 2016

March came in like a lion, as strong winds overnight Tuesday knocked out power for scores of customers in Franklin County, downing trees and closing dozens of roads.

In Greenfield, the town police logs list about 25 reports of wind damage, from around 12:30 a.m. to 6 a.m.

Potential high winds and sleet and freezing rain were predicted into early morning hours with the greatest impact to the high terrain with slick and slippery travel especially on untreated roads and surfaces. This morning’s commute could be “greatly impacted” in western Massachusetts, according to state emergency officials.

Tuesday’s woes began in Greenfield with a false burglar alarm caused by wind whipping through a broken crawlspace window on Montague City Road, and list downed trees across roadways. Around 1 a.m., police responded to a report of a large tree down at Cheapside and Deerfield streets, with wires hanging low across the road. As they were setting up the road with emergency lights, a small SUV drove through the top of the tree at about 30 mph. There was no major damage to the vehicle, but later, they determined that the driver’s license had been suspended.

At a Mobil gas station on the Mohawk Trail, most of the gas pump covers were found with nozzles blown off the gas pumps, according to the log. A tree on a house on Riddell Street was reported, and a dumpster had migrated to the middle of the road on Osgood Street.

Downed wires blocked Country Club Road, and were down on the Mohawk Trail, near Taco Bell.

“This all occurred from about 1:30 to 6 a.m.,” said Shelburne Police Sgt. Greg Bardwell, who spent the night going from one road closure to another. He said 12 roads were shut down in the Shelburne Center area overnight, due to high winds and trees falling on live wires or in the middle of roadways. Route 2 was closed at Shelburne Summit Road intersection, because of a fallen tree in the roadway.

As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, Peckville Road was still shut as trees were removed from the roadway, according to Bardwell.

“There was a phenomenal amount of wind,” he said. Roads closed in Shelburne Center included Barnard, Anderson, Lucy Fiske, South Shelburne, Bardwells Ferry and Taylor roads. Colrain Shelburne Road was closed after a huge pine tree came down on live wires.

“Skinner Road was closed from one end to the other with trees and wires down,” he remarked. “Peckville Road — same thing.”

According to Bardwell,  Shelburne Center had six power outages between 2 and 6 a.m., as trees came down.

“By 2 a.m., we had called in all our western Mass. crews,” said Eversource spokeswoman Priscilla Ress. “There were very high winds, over 55 mph, and reported damages at 65 locations in Franklin County. We had so many broken poles, and we lost several sections of wire at a time.”

She said power outages mainly affected customers in Ashfield, Buckland, Conway, Colrain, Greenfield, Montague, Shelburne and Whately.

Because of new technology, Eversource has developed “protective schemes,” looping power from one area to another, so that power can be shut off in damaged areas and service rerouted to areas where the service is intact. Without this “advanced switching,” said Ress, more homes in the region would have been without power for a much longer stretch.

“We expect everybody should be restored by this evening,” she said late in the day Tuesday.

Power outages affected 83 households served by Eversource in Shelburne Center.

An employee with the Greenfield Department of Public Works said road crews were clearing roadways of tree limbs and some trees on Tuesday. 

About 8:30 a.m., the Greenfield Police Department reported on its Facebook page that Gerrett and Charles streets, Shelburne and Smead Hill roads and Forest Avenue were closed due to tree and wire cleanup. Two hours later, the department announced Gerrett Street and Smead Hill Road had been reopened.