THIS WAS the scene on Elm Street, near the north end of Elm Crest Road, late Sunday afternoon. Firefighters were already on Elm attending to a live power line in the street when they learned the home at the corner of Elm and Elm Crest had caught fire in the basement. (Vin Sylvia Photo)

Published in the August 24, 2020 edition.

WAKEFIELD — Wild winds lashed the town yesterday afternoon, shearing trees in half along the north end of Lake Quannapowitt, creating a subterranean electrical surge through a water line into a home on Elm Street, knocking out power for thousands all over the community and generally leaving a lot of damage behind.

THE OWNER of this car on Elmcrest Road was safely inside when a tree was uprooted and landed on the vehicle late Sunday afternoon. (B. McCoubrey Photo)

No one interviewed this morning could say for sure what type of weather system it was that passed through around 4:15. DPW Director Joe Conway said if it was a tornado, someone would have captured a funnel cloud on camera. A microburst? Possibly, said MGLD General Manager Pete Dion, estimating that winds got up to 70 miles an hour. National Weather Service personnel were expected to come to town today, look at the type of destruction the system caused and then make a best-guess at what it was.

“Whatever it was that came through was pretty impressive,” Conway said, adding that Main Street along the Lake from Salem Street to Lowell Street suffered heavy tree damage. A tree fell through a family room on Houston Street, off of Salem. There were 20 area power outages, with a large circuit out on West Side for most of the night.

At 7:30 this morning, Dion said there were still two area outages in Greenwood and another on the West Side, as well as about a dozen single services leading to homes that had been taken out by downed limbs and required either tree work or the expertise of an electrician.

“We’ll be working on area outages most of the day, Dion said. He explained that a few thousand customers were without power at the peak of the storm and its aftermath.

DPW crews, working with a tree contractor, were continuing to clear limbs off streets and public property again today.

Police got 24 calls about trees on homes beginning around 5:40 p.m., and another 20 reports of trees on electrical lines.

The first call came in at 5:39 p.m. for a tree and wires down near 88 Elm St. At 6:04 p.m. a large tree was hanging over the MBTA tracks at Myrtle Street. At 6:06 p.m. a downtown bank alarm went off because of a power outage. The Houston Street incident was reported around 6:20 p.m. The DPW requested that Green Street be closed because trees, limbs and wires were down near Shady Avenue around 6:20 p.m. Trees and wires were down around 6:30 p.m. on Salem Street at Rochelle Drive.

At 6:44 p.m. police were told that the traffic lights along North Avenue at Albion Street and Prospect Street were out, as were the signals at Water and Crescent streets. A wire was arcing on Nahant Street around 6:50 p.m. A utility police fire was reported on Nahant Street. At about 9 p.m. the DPW was asked to put traffic cones out at Elm Street and Wester Avenue.

At 6:26 this morning, a line was down on Cutter Street, preventing access to North Avenue.

Town Council Chair Ann Santos wrote this morning:

“As you are all aware, Wakefield was hit with a severe storm late yesterday afternoon causing much damage as trees were uprooted all over town. In fact the Fire department received 53 calls for service over a 1 hour stretch, including a 2 alarm fire on Elm Street. I am happy to report that while there was much physical damage, we have had NO reports of any personal injury.

“As Team Wakefield did last night, crews from Wakefield Police, Fire, DPW, MLD and our private partners will continue to work with safety being the number one priority. These crews have done an amazing job and we are all thankful to be blessed with such dedicated personnel. We ask you to please be patient and to call 911 in the event that any emergency occurs.

“2020 is certainly testing our resolve! We are all up for the challenge.”