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A collapsed chimney in North Adams.

Berkshires Survives Hurricane Sandy With Little Damage

Staff ReportsiBerkshires
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A leaning light pole closed a section of Lime Street in Adams. Right, a barely seen tree knocked down a utility and the power on Notch Road in North Adams.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Sandy roared into town with sound but not much fury as the so-called "superstorm" petered out over Western Massachusetts.

The main casualities were tree limbs and power lines, leaving large swathes of the Berkshires — particularly the hilltowns — without power for hours.

A chimney collapsed in North Adams, a portion of a roof in Lenox and a youngster barely missed a tree entering her room, but by 10 p.m. there appeared to be no serious injuries or major damage.

"We could still have significant winds," said Mayor Richard Alcombright at about 9:30, after meeting with his emergency management team. "I don't think you can overprepare for any event. I'm just really, really pleased with our emergency teams. ... When they get together is a very, very serious operation."

Local and state officials had been planning since Friday for Hurricane Sandy, cleaning culverts and drains, positioning equipment, calling in extra hands and setting up for emergency shelters as the monster storm headed our way. Schools were closed, shops and banks sent employees home and residents were warned to stay off the roads.

Sandy left a path of destruction in the Caribbean and killed dozens. At least eight deaths are being attributed to the storm as it continues to batter the mid-Atlantic coast and floods New York City. 

Nearly 400,000 were without power in the Massachusetts; more than 6,000 in the Berkshires. Most towns declared states of emergency after Gov. Deval Patrick declared a statewide emergency on Friday.

Emergency responders spent most of the day responding to downed wires and broken tree limbs. The Pittsfield Fire Department finally saw a calm around 6 p.m. Monday after fielding nearly double their average calls.

According to Deputy Chief Ray Tart, the department filed 40 calls for service, which is an increase from about 25 a day. Most of the calls were for downed trees and power lines. However, Tart said working in tandem with the city's tree service, no roads were closed and no flooding reports received.

Multiple trees had fallen into roadways including two trees on South Street and one on Barker Road but were cleared quickly, Tart said. One tree had fallen onto a home on Westwood Road, which The Berkshire Eagle reports is owned by Damian and Kim Esposito. Kim Esposito had removed her 2-year-old daughter from the room minutes before the tree fell on it.

photos by Joe Durwin
Shopping cart corrals at Big Y on West Street are tipped over like turtles. Below, a freed cart attacked a car.
"We were real busy between three and six," Tart said at the Columbus Avenue Fire Station Monday night. "It was mostly trees down and lines down."

The department is not operating with any extra crews, he said, but as the storm continues to make its way north, they could be called in later.

Hurricane Sandy made landfall at about 8 p.m. Monday night on the southern coast of New Jersey. The storm is expected to continue westward into Pennsylvania before heading north into upstate New York.

In Adams, the emergency shelter at the Adams Visitors Center sheltered only a television crew for a remote report. The shelter was closed at 10 p.m. but would be reopened if necessary.

There were no reports of any major storm-related damage in Adams. A tree limb caused a short power outage on Alger Street and a section of Lime Street was closed to through traffic because of leaning light poles.

Williamstown officials made great efforts to keep in touch with residents of the Spruces Mobile Home Park about preparations for the impending storm. But by late Monday, police reported there were a couple of trees down but no property damage or road closures.

A number of towns made plans for emergency shelters but only North Adams and Adams opened them. About a dozen people used the North Adams shelter in the evening after being alerted about possible damaging winds at the Wheel Estates Mobile Home Park, which sits high up on the hillside on the southern end of the city.

The response to Hurricane Sandy isn't surprising after last year's Irene smashed roads and flooded basements, highways and residences through out North County and cost millions in damages  — and a good reason why North Adams and Adams had emergency shelters ready.

Sandy was being billed as a devastating superstorm and compared to the Hurricane of 1938 as she churned slowly northward. But her broad structure tightened as she picked up steam and she made a sharp left, landing in south New Jersey and lessening her impact farther inland to the north.

Alcombright said he'd been watching the local weather all day and metorologists had continued to forecast bursts of up to 70 miles per hour well into the afternoon. State officials in the eastern end of the state were also continuing to express concerns over high winds.

"It doesn't appear to be as bad as they said it was going to be," he said. "But you prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

Tags: hurricane,   power outages,   Sandy,   winds,   

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