Our neighbors east of the Berkshires were hard hit by last night's severe thunderstorms. Thousands were left without power and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. says that 31,000 customers were still out at 10:30 this morning. It may take several days until all customers are fully restored.
Officials say they have engaged the help of contractor and neighboring utility crews to assist with damage assessment, clean up and restoration efforts, after overnight winds, heavy rain and lightning caused extensive damage in WMECo's service territory.
Hardest hit towns include: Amherst, Bernardston, Buckland, Deerfield, Easthampton, Gill, Greenfield, Hadley, Hatfield, Montague, Shelburne and Springfield. Currently there are more than 440 trouble spots.
In Berkshire County, about a 100 customers are still affected in Becket, Lanesborough, Otis, Sandisfield and Tyringham. The storm blew through North Berkshire around 11 p.m. on Wednesday.
National Grid was also reporting a large number of outages in Central Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick was visiting Turners Falls this afternoon to view the damage.
Because of the large number of road closures, WMECo plans to use a helicopter patrol over Franklin and Hampshire counties to better assess the amount of damage to its distribution system. WMECo said it continues to evaluate the extent of damage; at this time restoration times are not available.
In terms of numbers of customers affected, WMECo said early indications show that this storm's impact is comparable to the December 2008 ice storm.
The utility is reminding people not to go anywhere near downed wires and report them immediately by calling 911 or WMECo at 1-800-286-2000. Don't operate generators indoors and make sure they are installed by a licensed electrician.
Cranwell Resort in Lenox tweeted us this photo of a large tree that fell after the storm came through. The pic was taken by the resort's director of sales, Dawn R. Jacobsson.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Several sections of the county were hit by a fast-moving storm that downed trees and power lines. At 9 p.m., Western Mass. Electric Co. was reporting some 22,000 customers out of power in Berkshire, Hampden, Hampshire and Franklin counties.
The wind split this tree in Williamstown.
Nearly all of New Ashford was reported out of power and nearly half of nearby Lanesborough. The hilltowns, including Becket and Washington, weathered the storm better, with no reported outages.
National Grid reported minor, scattered outages throughout, with about 31 customers out of power on Florida Mountain.
One our readers reported traffic lights out in Pittsfield shortly after the storm moved through and Cranwell Resort sent a picture of a large tree down in its driveway. "Tree down on road on our property — Our topnotch crew is already on the scene, removing debris," the Lenox resort tweeted us. A section of a large tree in Williamstown near the Dunkin' Donuts on Main Street also came down in the storm.
"Every county in WMECo's service area is affected, with the most customers without power in the towns of Sunderland, Agawam, Ludlow, Springfield, West Springfield, Hadley and Southampton," according to a press statement from WMECo.
WMECo reminds residents to treat all wires as live and stay a minimum of 10 feet away. Even getting close to an energized wire can have deadly consequences. Call 911 or WMECo immediately.
Home generators should always be installed by a qualified electrician. Improperly installed generators can backfeed into our lines, which could be deadly to our workers.