Hundreds of thousands remain without power; state offices reopen

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Oct 30, 2012 No Comments ›› The Commisioner

 

About 288,000 customers in Massachusetts are without power this morning, the most significant damage known to be caused in Massachusetts by Hurricane Sandy, the massive storm that rampaged across the East Coast on Monday.

 

Bill Simpson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Taunton, said this morning that bands of showers are expected throughout today, generated by the weather system that was once Hurricane Sandy.

He said those showers – and today’s midday high tide – together are not going to be severe enough to renew concerns about flooding in coastal or low lying areas of the state. Temperatures today will reach 70, well above the seasonal norm of somewhere in the 50s, he said.

“The winds are pretty much diminished,’’ Simpson said. “All of our issues are coming to an end this morning.’’

While the state of emergency ordered by Governor Deval Patrick this weekend remains in effect, non-essential state workers are expected to return to work at 10 a.m. today, a delayed start aimed at helping ease the transition back to work.

Boston’s public school system and many others around the state opened this morning, but dozens of other public school districts remained closed, or had delayed openings.

The MBTA, which shut down at 2 p.m. on Monday, resumed service at 5 a.m. today with some cancellations and changes in services. “Customers are encouraged to leave additional time for their commute and expect delays due to storm impacts,’’ the T said on its webpage.

According to the T, shuttle buses are operating on the Green Line D branch between Riverside and the Newton Highlands stations. On the commuter rail, service on the Providence/Stoughton Line is suspended between Mansfield and Wickford Junction stations due to downed trees and power lines. Ferry service remains suspend this morning, pending a Coast Guard inspection of docks, the T said.

Logan International Airport is open, but passengers are being urged to check with airlines to make sure their destination airports are also open. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, major airports in New York City and New Jersey remain closed as of 6 a.m. today, with openings expected at some point later today.

Courthouses, which were closed around noon on Monday, will reopen at noon today.

Travis Hengen, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said no deaths or injuries were reported that are directly linked to the storm. State Police are investigating whether a fatal crash in Peabody was caused, in part, by weather conditions.

Hengen said that statewide, 23 shelters were open, but they reported just 161 people had gone to them for safety.

“If you are one of those 161 people, you wish you could go back home,’’ he said. “But in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a large number.’’

Hengen said MEMA is dispatching 31 damage assessment teams across the state today to conduct surveys and develop detailed accounts of storm-related damage.

As of 5 a.m. today, utilities were reporting about 288,000 customers without power, down from a maxium of 380,000.

Sandy’s landfall was in southern New Jersey and it cut a destructive path nearly a thousand miles wide, causing massive disruptions throughout the Northeast. It was classified as a post-tropical cyclone, rather than a hurricane, by the time it hit the New Jersey coast at around 8 p.m., the weather service reported.

In Massachusetts, heavy winds toppled trees and power lines, closing roads and causing more power outages throughout the day. Heavy surf pounded the coast, forcing evacuations in some low-lying areas in advance of the evening high tide, when storm surges were expected to exceed 6 feet.

The powerful late-season storm, which killed nearly 70 people in the Caribbean, brought the Bay State to a near-standstill. As most people hunkered at home, major roads were half-empty, public transit shut down, and schools, malls, and businesses were closed.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said schools and city offices would be open Tuesday.

As Sandy moved toward the coast, the Category 1 hurricane packed winds up to 90 miles per hour, and forecasters said it could stand as the largest hurricane in New England history. Its air pressure — an indicator of the storm’s power — was the lowest ever recorded in the ­area.

Wind gusts of more than 60 miles per hour were reported in Brookline, Milton, Lawrence, Barnstable, Falmouth, and Fairhaven on Monday afternoon. Winds around 81 miles per hour were reported in Wellfleet just after 2 p.m., and a buoy off Cuttyhunk recorded a gust of 83 miles per hour.

By about 11 p.m. on Monday, the effects of Sandy were beginning to taper off in the state.

By John R. Ellement, Globe Staff

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