Storm roughs up Franklin County
Trees and downed powerlines block the way on Highland Avenue in Northfield on Wednesday following the afternoon microburst. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »
After a powerful thunderstorm knocked out the power to the lights at Main and Federal streets in Greenfield Wednesday, Police Chief Robert Haigh directed traffic while the Department of Public Works put up temporary stop signs. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »
Trees and downed powerlines block the way on Pierson Road in Northfield on Wednesday following the afternoon microburst. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »
A member of the Northfield Storm Patrol checks out the damage at Pierson Road on Wednesday following the afternoon microburst. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »
Lightning strikes north of Beacon Field in Greenfield where this picture was taken during Wednesday’s afternoon storms. Recorder/Paul Franz Purchase photo reprints »
Thousands found themselves without power Wednesday as an electrical storm moved across the county in waves.
“There was a microburst in the northeast end of our town,” said Northfield Fire Chief Floyd “Skip” Dunnell.
The phenomenon, caused by an intense downdraft of air, was centered around the former Northfield Mount Hermon School campus. The chief said several utility poles on Pierson Road and one on Highland Avenue were snapped during the storm. A house at the corner of Highland Avenue and Pine Street was struck by a falling tree, causing damage to the edge of its roof.
Dunnell said he was not aware of any injuries associated with the storm. Firefighters and the Highway Department worked with the Western Massachusetts Electric Co. to reopen roads.
“We’re coordinating a ‘cut and clear’ effort,” he explained. “WMECO comes in and cuts the power, then we clear the trees from the roads.”
Several Northfield residents experienced temporary blackouts as the power company cut off electricity to make it safe for emergency workers to remove trees and wires that blocked the roads.
WMECO spokeswoman Toni Berlandy said the company expected to restore power to Northfield by 2 a.m.
Lightning struck two Greenfield buildings during the storm, though damage was minimal.
The Mill House apartment building on Wells Street was struck at about 3:32 p.m., causing damage to the building’s alarm system, according to Fire Capt. Jesse Phelps.
“There was also a lightning strike at Four Rivers Charter Public School,” Phelps added.
He said that strike caused some damage to the school’s electronics, but did not cause a fire or structural damage.
Elsewhere in town there were several reports of trees and wires taken down by the storm, some of which caused road closures.
A fallen tree closed the Mohawk Trail west of the Route 2 rotary in both directions from 2:40 to 4:15 p.m., when the westbound lane was opened. The rest of the road was cleared by 6 p.m.
Leyden road was closed during the same time period after a fallen tree took out power lines. Power to Leyden was also interrupted as crews repaired the damage.
Downtown Greenfield was without power for more than two hours as crews from WMECO worked to repair storm damage.
As much as 98 percent of Gill had no power for much of the day. By 9 p.m., 417 of the town’s 706 WMECO customers were still without electricity, though Berlandy expected them to have power back by the end of the night.
WMECO spokeswoman Priscilla Ress said downed trees were responsible for the majority of Wednesday’s outages.
Firefighters and police in the Athol and Orange area said that there were few reports of storm damage in the eastern end of the county.