The familiar buzz of chainsaws could be heard throughout neighborhoods in Hanson and Whitman over the last few days as storm cleanup and damage assessment efforts also continued — nearly 72 hours after Friday’s historic winter storm Riley battered the east coast.
The storm, which reportedly underwent bombogenesis (intense strengthening) off the coast of New England, was relentless with winds recorded as high as 70 mph and higher closer to the shoreline, according to weather reports.
Whitman Fire Chief Timothy Grenno also cautioned residents, during the Tuesday, March 6 Board of Selectmen’s meeting to be wary of damaged trees that could fall during this week’s storm.
“It came in a little bit stronger than we expected it to,” Grenno said of the March 2 storm. “The big concern right now is I know of three or four trees that are partially uprooted and are unstable.”
Winds through Thursday, March 6 re expected to gust to about 45 mph.
“It’s going to bring those trees right down,” he said. “There’s a lot of damaged trees out there.”
If the root ball of a tree is already lifting up, that is wind-storm damage almost certain to bring a tree down in the second storm, officials said.
Both towns fielded dozens of storm related calls into Tuesday related to flooding of homes, power outages, gas leaks and downed wires among other issues.
During the peak of the storm — Friday into Saturday — both towns’ public safety departments were fully staffed. Hanson’s first responders were operating at full capacity, including three 911 dispatchers. Whitman-Holbrook dispatch regional center and EOC was in full operations.
Humongous trees were falling while responders were trying to reach those in need making for demanding and hazardous conditions. Hanson police and fire responded to an urgent tree-down call with three cars trapped with their occupants still inside at 680 Liberty St., just before 7 p.m. Friday near Gorwin Drive.
“Live wires came down with the tree so the occupants had to remain in their cars for approximately half an hour. Fortunately, there were no injuries,” said Hanson Police Lt. Michael Casey. “There were many close calls.”
Route 58 (Liberty Street) was closed down for over eight hours in Hanson, which impeded travel times for emergency crews. Route 58 is a main point of access for Hanson.
With impassible conditions in both towns, utility crews brought in from other states, DPW and highway, and tree crews worked around the clock as giant tree trunks freshly ripped from the earth littered the roadways. Piles of branches and tree limbs line many streets throughout Plymouth County.
Commending all first responders Lt. Casey said he was proud of all his officers who performed incredibly under the extremely dangerous conditions. Several police cruisers including Chief Michael Miksch’s vehicle sustained damage by falling tree limbs while responding to calls, he said. The officers were not injured.
Whitman was dispatched to 130 calls Friday, March 2 through Tuesday night, 90 percent of them storm-related, said Grenno, who estimated the Police Department responded to between 150 and 160 calls in that period.
Trees had fallen on several homes in Whitman.
“ I want to thank the residents for their patience and to the public safety responders, fire, police, DPW and the school district for their cooperation through the storm,” said Grenno. WHRHS had been opened as a warming center during the day while power was out, even though limited staffing prevented overnight shelter provisions. The DPW was able to divert some crews to Easton, where more than 200 trees were felled be the storm, to help that community try to clear streets on Tuesday in preparation for the next storm, Grenno said.
He noted that Whitman was back to “just about 100-percent power” as of 6 p.m., Monday and school, which was still out due to a continued lack of power at Hanson’s elementary schools, was to be back in session Wednesday. At the height of the storm Grenno estimated that 75 to 80 percent of the town had been plunged into darkness — some as long as three days.
“National Grid experienced catastrophic damage to their infrastructure system,” he said.
Hanson Fire/Rescue responded to 162 storm-related calls from 7 p.m., Friday through 7 p.m. Monday. They were also involved in assisting with 20 medical calls, offered EMS support two times and received EMS support on mutual aid for three calls.
One Plymouth County Dive technician was activated from Hanson for a swift water rescue to a Norwell staging location. The department provided mutual aid at the Halifax structure fire Monday night at 8:30 pm on Oak Place. There were a total of 12 reported fallen trees on homes, which sustained damage, according to Fire Chief Jerome Thompson Jr.
He commended town department officials and first responders from Whitman and Hanson who worked seamlessly together.
“I would like to thank all of the departments and W-H school district who were in contact with us throughout the storm. It was through great co-operation that made facilitation of a warming and charging center possible at the high school,” said Thompson.
The library in Hanson experienced “several significant leaks” during the storm in different areas from past leaks that prompted the town to replace the roof two years ago.
Building Commissioner Robert Curran was slated to inspect the damage this week, noting “it is likely wind-driven rain entering the sidewall.