'Bomb cyclone' topples trees and cuts power to almost all of Cape Cod and Islands (2024)

BARNSTABLE — The combination of high winds, wet soil and leafy trees resulted in massive power outages across the Cape and Islands and Eastern Massachusetts as a major nor'easter hit starting late Tuesday.

“This could be a multi-day outage, but it’s hard to nail that down because we haven’t had a chance to assess all the potential damage to the system, particularly in hard-hit areas,” said Eversource spokesman Chris McKinnon.

Barnstable County officials reported 152,000 households and businesses without power on the Cape Wednesday afternoon.

Storm updates:What we know about Cape Cod power outages, schools, transportation and more

Eversource: Cape Cod power outages could last days

As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, 72% of Eversource's customers on Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard were without power, or a total of 144,692 households and businesses, according to Eversource's online outage map. The extent of the outages showed a slight improvement from Wednesday morning, when about 77% of the region was without power.

The extent of the outages within towns was impressive — or maybe depressing was the right word. At one point, all of Provincetown was without power, followed by Bourne at 98%, Falmouth at 94%, Sandwich at 91% and Orleans at 91%.

Unfortunately, many of the hundreds of repair crews on the Cape were forced to wait until winds died down to levels considered safe enough to use bucket lifts to repair lines.

'Bomb cyclone' topples trees and cuts power to almost all of Cape Cod and Islands (1)

'Bomb cyclone' brought gusts up to 94 mph

National Weather Service meteorologist Torry Gaucher, of the Boston/Norton office, said the highest unofficial reported wind gusts occurred in the early morning hours Wednesday with a gust of 94 miles per hourat Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard and 84 mph in Dennis and 79 mphin Woods Hole.

Generally, peak winds occurred at around 4 a.m., as low-level winds from the nor’easter were positioned over the Cape, Gaucher said.

“This was a strong one,” said Gaucher.

Provincetown power outage:Power outages across Outer Cape, gusts to 83 mph in Wellfleet overnight

Tracking the outages:Nor'easter triggers power outages across eastern, southern Massachusetts. Here's where

This was the region’s first nor’easter of the season and it rapidly intensified, with pressure dropping by 28 millibars within a 24-hour period, qualifying it as a so-called "bomb cyclone." The storm was headed east through most of the day Wednesday and winds were expected to drop off through the night.But gusts were expected to reach 34 to 39 mph until 4 a.m., then dropping to 23 to 26 mph Thursday, possibly higher in areas close to the water, said Gaucher.

That kept repair crews mostly on the ground until Thursday.

'Bomb cyclone' topples trees and cuts power to almost all of Cape Cod and Islands (2)

Crewsclear lines, open roads waiting for safe wind conditions

McKinnon said the safety window for working on lines is 30 to 35 mph.

“We’re still dealing with high wind gusts kicking up along the South Shore, the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard. Until those come down to non-hazardous levels, we can’t safely put crews up into the bucket trucks,” said McKinnon.

The crews were working on clearing hazardous lines to help open up roads for public safety and to allow repair crews to move quickly into impacted areas once the winds abated. McKinnon said there were 500 crews working in the state Wednesday and they expected that, as workers restored power in other parts of New England, those ranks would swell to 1,200 by Thursday and 1,500 on Friday, if needed. He did not know how many crews were currently on the Cape and Islands, but said Eversource did stage personnel and equipment in advance of the storm.

Barnstable County officials reported that there were 200 line-repair crews on the Cape. They said that National Grid, Verizon, Comcast and Open Cape were using generators to run critical sites and were repairing broken cables that had led to localized service outages.

'Bomb cyclone' topples trees and cuts power to almost all of Cape Cod and Islands (3)

Roads across the Cape were blocked by fallen trees and limbs, and downed wires.

“The roads were pretty rough,” said Sean O’Brien, the county’s emergency preparedness coordinator. He compared Wednesday’s nor’easter to 2013’s Winter Storm Nemo “without the snow.”

“We’re looking at such a heavy load of power outages,” O’Brien said. “The benefit is that the temperatures are not cold.”

That may not last long as Gaucher said that cold temperatures will move in Thursday night, dropping to the low to mid-40s.

“It could be uncomfortable for those without heat,” he said.

School openings

Cape Cod Healthcare officials on Wednesday closed urgent care centers, lab services and physicians’ offices due to weather and power outages. Spokesman Patrick Kane said they would reopen facilities Thursday that had power, and that Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital remained open throughout the storm.

School officials said they would make decisions on school openings after they’d determined whether their schools had power and whether road and weather conditions were safe for travel by bus.

'Bomb cyclone' topples trees and cuts power to almost all of Cape Cod and Islands (4)

Cape Cod shelters

County spokesperson Bethany Traverse said the county opened one shelter Wednesday night, at Barnstable Intermediate School at 895 Falmouth Road in Hyannis. She said it was likely to be open only for Wednesday night but that would be reevaluated Thursday morning.

Cape Cod transportation

The Cape Cod Gateway Airport remained open Wednesday with operations significantly scaled back.The Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority said that all fixed bus routes operated at nearly full service, with some detours and delays.

The Steamship Authority website said that all services between the Cape and Islands were cancelled Wednesday. Spokesman Sean Driscoll said that determinations on future trips would be made close to the time of their scheduled departure, based on weather and wind conditions overnight and early Thursday morning.

Across the Cape, people hunkered down in their homes as most businesses remained closed and without power. Those who did venture out found blocked and flooded roads as the region received 2 to 3 inches of rain, with the highest rain totals in Falmouth — which also experienced localized flooding and the highest Cape rain amounts in a fast-moving storm Monday night into early Tuesday.

Dangerous live wires

But the real danger was falling limbs and wires.

Chris Gerrior of the Bourne Department of Public Works was trying to clear two downed trees on Puritan Road in Bourne, but stopped short after he found live wires tangled within the tree’s branches.

“We aren’t touching this one because of the wires. We are hoping to get another machine or the power company over here that can deal with electrical wires, but for now we need to move on to the next site,” Gerrior said.

While winds appeared to be dying down inland Wednesday afternoon, that was not the case on ocean beaches.

Peter Hartnett of Eventide Landscaping & Design had to duck behind his truck to talk as wind-driven rain and sand blasted the parking lot at Nauset Beach in Orleans. It all made it hard to walk as he made his rounds checking customers' homes for storm damage.

“I thought we were just having a rainstorm,” he said, but he saw numerous branches and trees down, and the tops of trees snapped off and suspended in power lines.

Wendy Meads of Wellfleet was one of the lucky ones. Standing outside the Orleans Stop & Shop, she said she had power when she left for her early morning shift but wasn’t sure whether the power would stay on.

Martha's Vineyard has highest winds:Here are the wind gusts reported on Cape Cod during the storm

Despite the high surf and a storm surge estimated at nearly 4 feet, the Cape was largely spared erosion because of astronomically low tides.

Storm watchers

But that might change by Thursday, especially in places like the barrier beach in Sandwich where erosion has been a constant. Sagamore residents Toni and Ray Oliver pulled into the parking lot of Town Neck Beach in Sandwich just before the late afternoon high tide on Wednesday.

The Olivers make a pilgrimage to the exposed patch of sand for most storms. For a nor’easter, they said as sea foam sprayed the windshield of their car, this storm was exceptional.

“I’ve never seen it like this,” said Ray, who grew up on Cape.

“Other than a full hurricane,” Toni added.

Other storm-watchers agreed.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be this intense,” said Bourne resident Kerri Souto, who, like the Olivers, was still without power. “This is pretty bad.”

Roadways across Sandwich, some of which were covered with rippling puddles of seawater, were blocked off by police so workers could clear toppled trees and begin restoring power.

Nor'easter across New England:Maine and NH power outages among hundreds of thousandsin the Northeast

Another storm, flooding concerns in the forecast

AccuWeather wasforecasting another storm Friday for the Northeast.

“While this approaching storm system isn’t forecast to be nearly as strong as the nor’easter which impacted the region earlier this week, additional heavy rainfall could further exacerbate flooding issues that are already in place,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Adam Sadvary wrote in a press release.

Keep up to date:Download the Cape Cod Times app ahead of the storm

Reporters Rachel Devaney, Cynthia McCormick, Asad Jung,Jeanette Hinkle, Denise Coffey and news editor Gregory Bryant contributed to this story.

'Bomb cyclone' topples trees and cuts power to almost all of Cape Cod and Islands (2024)


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