boston globe

Irene’s main impact: no lights

Coastal damage less than feared

Blacktop was ripped from a pier in Mattapoisett Harbor during Tropical Storm Irene on Sunday. (Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff)

By Jennette Barnes
Globe Correspondent /
September 1, 2011

Recovery from Tropical Storm Irene will stretch into the coming weeks, even after electricity has been restored to homes and businesses, local officials say.

Up and down the coast, rough seas ripped boats from their moorings and tossed them ashore. Some of the worst damage occurred on the south coast, west of Cape Cod, where a church lost its steeple and at least one town wharf sustained damage that could take weeks to fix.

Although the storm spared Eastern Massachusetts the flooding that hit the western part of the state and Vermont, utility companies have said power outages could last into the weekend in some areas, leaving many residents angry. Outages affected wide swaths south of Boston, with more than half a million customers losing power statewide.

Sea walls on the South Shore went largely unscathed, but on the Hull peninsula, water undermined a west-facing stone retaining wall, causing a sink hole to develop. Chris Russo, deputy fire chief, said the hole near the corner of Cadish Avenue and B Street stretched about six feet across.


As the week wore on, thousands of residents south of Boston remained without power. Cohasset, Foxborough, Marshfield, and Scituate were among those who had major outages.

Where municipal power companies supply the electricity, residents appeared to get their power back faster, though the extent of the damage left some Middleborough homes without power for 30 hours or more. In Hull, municipal customers lost power for about nine hours because a link that feeds the town went down, the deputy fire chief said.

Cohasset officials expressed anger at what they considered National Grid’s slow and sloppy response. The town suffered an oil leak from a downed transformer and prolonged power outages. Of particular concern were about 200 homes where sewer pumps were inoperable, said Michael Coughlin, the town manager.

“We’re very concerned about raw waste backing up into individual households,’’ he said.

Coughlin said National Grid also didn’t keep its promise to quickly assess the safety of fallen wires. That meant local public safety officers had to guard the sites “at an incredible cost’’ in overtime, an as yet uncalculated amount that he plans to bill the utility.

“National Grid owes us an explanation and a reimbursement,’’ he said. “I vented my frustration on a conference call [to National Grid] with other town managers and administrators. . . . It’s inexcusable.’’

National Grid spokeswoman Debbie Drew responded by saying, “We make every attempt to make our communities as safe as possible during severe weather, and we continued to do that through all phases of the storm.’’ The company said in a press release on Tuesday that it anticipated finishing damage assessments that day. More than 125 poles and many more primary power lines needed to be replaced, the company said, and crews give priority to equipment that affects the most customers.


Globe correspondent Johanna Seltz contributed to this report. Jennette Barnes can be reached at