High winds batter Wareham causing widespread damage

Oct 30, 2017

Wareham residents woke up to widespread damage Monday after howling winds ripped up trees, downed power lines and knocked out power to more than 4,700 homes.

The storm started late Sunday and brought winds gusting up to 60 miles per hour across the South Coast. In some parts of the state, gusts exceeded 90 miles per hour.

In Wareham, Municipal Maintenance crews worked all day clearing downed limbs from roads while Eversource crews restored power. At the height of the power outage, 33 percent of Wareham customers were without electricity. As of 1 a.m. Tuesday, 1,300 homes were without power, or 9 percent of the town.

Schools closed due to the storm as roads blocked by trees and power lines, including Cranberry Highway from Lindsey's Restaurant to Redbrook Road, made travel difficult.

The Wareham Fire Department had 28 people responding to the storm, said Captain Mark Rogers. They assisted with life safety, preventing property damage and responded to fire hazards.

“This was one of the most unexpected storms of the season,” Rogers said. “This is the first time something snuck up on us like this.”

The department got around 35 storm-related calls throughout the day, including for large fallen trees and fallen wires.

No one was hurt in the fire department’s operations.

“We’re here 24 hours a day,” Rogers said. “The unexpected happens and we’re here to help.”

Onset Fire Chief Ray Goodwin said his department responded to 29 calls over the course of 14 hours during the storm.

The calls started in a flurry just past 3 a.m. when “all hell broke loose,” said Goodwin. At that time, a utility pole fell across the road in front of Dollar General on Cranberry Highway, blocking traffic. Soon after, a large oak tree fell across Onset Avenue near Bay Pointe Drive. Multiple electrical wires were also downed during that period, he said. Goodwin said no firefighters were injured during the response.

Heavy surf accompanied the wind, which caused a concrete dock at Onset Pier to break away. It ended up on shore alongside two small boats.

"This is the worst I've ever seen," said Wareham Department of Natural Resources Director Garry Buckminster, referring to the wind, which was still heavy late Monday morning. Buckminster, who has been with the department since 1995, said he called officers in to work at 2 a.m. to monitor the situation. He noted that a few dinghies had capsized.

In the Swifts Beach community, a few neighbors without power gathered outside Monday morning, pointing out pieces of siding in the road and trying to guess which homes they came from. There were hanging wires in the street and fallen branches.

Warren Hall, who lives on Shore Road, said his power was flickering on and off Sunday night while he was watching the World Series. Power in the area went off fully at around 5 a.m. Monday, said Joseph Morrison, a local electrician.

"I'm sure the phone will be ringing all day," Morrison said.

Mike Ponte, owner of Pontiac Tree Services in Wareham, said he got around 45 calls on Monday with requests for tree removal.

Ponte said it's the biggest storm he's seen in the area "without being called a hurricane."

Some took the storm in stride, including Susan Grebber of Wareham who went about her daily routine of feeding seagulls at Little Harbor Beach. With a forceful wind at her back whipping up an ocean spray, she tossed slices of bread to the birds.

"I do this every day," she said.