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Sandy packs a punch in Wellesley

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Tree across Bradford Street near the intersection with Route 9. Damage was caused by Hurricane Sandy on Monday, Oct. 29. (Keith E. Jacobson/Wicked Local Photo)

By Anne-Marie Smolski,
Wicked Local Wellesley Posted Oct 31, 2012 @ 06:26 PM Last update
Nov 01, 2012

Wellesley — Like much of the East Coast, Wellesley was punched by Hurricane Sandy. The massive storm damaged homes and cars, felled trees, and took down wires and trees after it hit on Monday. Many people around town lost their power.

By Wednesday, however, power had been restored to every customer. “Everybody’s back up,” said Dick Joyce, director of the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant, on Wednesday.

The last customer was reconnected Tuesday night at approximately 11 p.m., while everybody else was up and running by 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The major reason for outages was from trees coming down and taking out wooden poles. Joyce said that resetting the poles was the most difficult part of restoring service.

Between 1,700 and 2,000 customers were without power, Joyce estimated.
(note by MAMEC: that's 17%-20% of all WMLP customers)

To gear up for Sandy, he said the WMLP recruited two contract tree crews and a contractor who does line work. He also had every one of his employees come in to work.

Joyce said that on his way home Monday night he reflected on the storm. “We actually got creamed,” he said. “This was worse than tropical storm Irene,” he said, adding that it was also worse than the October 2012 snowstorm.

“Just the dedication of our line crews and our customer service reps was incredible,” Joyce said.

According to Wellesley Fire Department Chief Rick DeLorie, there were a lot of downed trees to deal with and trees that went into homes. However, he said there were no reports of any storm-related injuries.

DeLorie said that residents did take heed regarding storm warnings.

He said that the Fire Department responded to 85 separate incidents. They had three engines and two ladders in service. There were no calls, he said, for water-related issues in basements. The focus was on the downed trees and power-related issues. “The downed trees were really the biggest issue,” he said.

DeLorie said, “I was kind of surprised by the size of trees that came down.” Still having significant foliage on them, he said, “they were like giant sails.”

One such tree was at the residence of Bruce and Diane Crocker on Cottage Street.

According to Mary Lefkowitz, who lives nearby on West Riding, it happened just after 1 p.m. on Monday. She was not at home when the tree — a pine estimated at 4 feet in circumference — fell. The tree not only crashed through Valerie Gates’ vehicle parked at her home on Cottage Street, but also blocked access to West Riding.

When the tree fell it knocked a utility pole off kilter, Lefkowitz said. The town came to cut the tree up and move it to the side, to allow access to the street.

 “It’s so lucky that nobody was out, that nobody was hurt,” Lefkowitz said. “We have to look on that positive side.”

“It’s a very unfortunate situation. It was an incredible tree …,” said Diane Crocker about the tree she lost. Working at her desk inside her home when it happened, she saw the tree bending, and it was down in a flash.

“It was just the winds that I heard,” Crocker said, adding, “I think the branches cushioned the fall.”

Crocker said the town, because of safety reasons, turned the power off to her nearby neighbors, as there were power lines under the tree. At her home, however, she said she retained power. “The town came right away. They always do,” she said.

Although the road is totally open now, Crocker said there is debris all over the place.

She said she counts herself lucky that the tree didn’t fall on hers or one of her neighbors’ houses. It did, she said, come close to hitting two of her own vehicles, and damaged the fencing alongside  her house.

Crocker said, “We’ll deal with it,” but said it’s a sad situation to lose her beloved tree, and “it’s unfortunate that our neighbors had damage.”

According to Gates, whose car was totaled when the tree came down, and who said there is damage to her yard, fence and trees, there is a positive side to the event.

Her son, Cameron Friedman, is an Eagle Scout, and the Scoutmaster of his troop has canceled a trip to Monadnock that was scheduled for this coming Saturday. Instead, the Scouts and their families and friends and anyone else who has an inclination, will gather at Gates’ house this Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m., for a cleanup project.

In addition to the promise of help from the Scouts, Gates said she was touched by something else that happened when she was outside Tuesday, crying as she surveyed the damage. A man who was walking his dog noticed the mess at her house, and while talking to him she mentioned to him that Halloween was the next day and she didn’t even have candy to give out. An hour later, he returned with two bags of candy for her.

Gates also appreciated the hospitality of her neighbors. One offered to put her food in the refrigerator so it wouldn’t spoil, and another dried clothes that hadn’t finished their cycle in Gates’ dryer.
Preparing for Sandy
In preparation for Sandy, DeLorie said the Fire Department increased its staff and had 17 firefighters on duty. In addition, they had three shift captains as well as the deputy chief and himself working.

“We had great cooperation with Wellesley Police and the DPW,” DeLorie said. “It was a great team effort by all the departments working together.”

Mike Pakstis, director of the Department of Public Works, said in an email that the DPW is about 30 percent done with the cleanup in Wellesley. He added that he expects it to take two weeks to complete it.

The DPW didn’t leave anything to chance. “We met last Thursday to review and inspect all necessary equipment to make sure it was working,” Pakstis said.  “We lowered the water elevation in Morses Pond to be able to accept more water. We also inspected all of the brooks and streams in town.”

And although he said the DPW rented an additional pump in anticipation of flooding, they didn’t have to use it.

“We worked cooperatively throughout the storm with fire, police, MLP and the schools,” Pakstis said.

The town is now in the clean-up phase. Gordon Martin, superintendent of the Wellesley Recycling and Disposal Facility (RDF), said “a fair amount of people have used the extended hours” that were in effect Tuesday and Wednesday. Hours were extended until 3:45 both days.

However, he said people are not used to coming in after 12 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, and although the RDF has posted the extended hours on their website and voicemail, “I think that getting that message out has been a bit of a problem.” (The Townsman posted the extended hours on its website on Tuesday).

Gordon said that the Park and Highway Departments are coming in constantly, bringing in brush.

He would like to remind residents to put brush in the appropriate area of the RDF and leaves and clippings a little farther down in their drop-off area.

DeLorie said that other than storm issues, for the Fire Department, “it was extraordinarily quiet. There were very few medical calls at all,” he said, which allowed the Fire Department to focus on the storm. “I’m very proud of what the firefighters did,” he said.