Published in the November 2, 2017 edition

A HUGE maple tree at 23 Nutter Road was toppled in the fierce wind and rain storm that blew through the region Sunday night and Monday morning, blocking the road. The effect on the neighborhood was captured by drone in this photo. (Al Pereira/Advanced Photo)


NORTH READING — A swiftly moving severe wind and rain storm, fueled by wind gusts of up to 60 mph, tore through town and the region Sunday night, toppling trees and downing utility poles and wires.

The town’s first-responders had their hands full and extra duty crews were called in starting at 11 p.m. Sunday to handle the calls from all corners of the town throughout the night.

THE BRUNT of this fallen tree at 7 Kingston St. crushed a Chevy Malibu as well as a second sedan in the driveway before coming to rest on the home’s foyer during the overnight storm Sunday into Monday. (Al Pereira/Advanced Photo)

“It was a dangerous situation. At the height of the storm wind gusts between 50 to 60 mph were measured by the Fire Department’s weather station,” Deputy Fire Chief Barry Galvin told the Transcript. “As calls were answered, trees were cracking and falling all around emergency personnel,” he said.

Calls began coming into the fire station at about 11:40 p.m., Galvin stated. “The duty crew quickly became overwhelmed and a box alarm was struck for additional manpower,” he said. Galvin stated these calls were mainly related to trees that had fallen onto structures or power lines.

The storm also caused isolated ponding on roadways, and in some instances, trees had fallen onto homes and parked automobiles. In other areas of town, the trees ripped utility wires from the poles as they fell. In still other instances, the fallen trees remained suspended in mid-air by the wires that had not yet given way.

“Many streets became impassable. The Fire Department, along with the police, DPW and wire and building inspectors, worked through the night assessing damaged areas, structures, clearing trees and prioritizing power issued for Reading Light,” Galvin stated.

He said among the hardest hit areas were Oakdale Road, Nutter Road and Linwood Avenue. From the time the box was struck for extra manpower to about 5 a.m., Galvin said the Fire Department “responded to over 50 calls.”

THE FIERCE wind from Sunday’s storm twisted this light pole like a rag doll at MacIntyre Drive off Elm Street. Wind gusts upwards of 50 to 70 mph were recorded throughout the state along with torrential rain Sunday night into Monday morning. (Al Pereira/Advanced Photo)

Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto said he first touched base with the Police Department at 11:30 Sunday night for storm updates. “The Fire Chief, Public Works Director, Police Chief and I were in communication around 5:30 a.m. The challenge is we have the reports from the departments on the incidents, but it’s daylight that really assists us in being able to assess how extensive things are. We had a coordinated response meeting at 7 a.m. Monday morning at the Police Department,” Gilleberto said.

He added that Superintendent of Schools Jon Bernard made his decision to close all schools on Monday “based on input from the public safety departments, and that is no different than he does on a morning when he wakes up and it’s snowing,” he said.

Due to a power outage, which cut all but the auxiliary generator power to the North Reading Middle/High School, and due to the numerous fallen trees on Oakdale Road and the surrounding neighborhood near the school as well as the scattered downed trees and wires throughout town, Bernard opted to cancel school. All after-school and evening activities were also canceled, including the North Reading School Committee meeting. Its agenda items were pushed to the board’s next meeting on Monday, Nov. 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the Distance Learning Lab at NRHS.

Crews worked in hazardous conditions

“In addition the staffing in place for the normal overnight crew, there were five extra firefighters on duty and a crew of five public works staff during the height of the storm responding to critical public safety issues,” Gilleberto said. “They were responding to trees and large tree limbs blocking roads, wires that were down causing potential fire hazards. They were busy in the overnight.”

“The two issues they are dealing with during the height of a storm are: Can the public safety apparatus get to where it needs to get to and is there a threat to public safety with downed wires?” Gilleberto explained.

“Our first responders — police, fire and DPW crews — were working in very difficult and dangerous conditions overnight Sunday evening into Monday morning to ensure critical public safety issues were addressed in a timely fashion,” the T.A. said.

“And after the worst of the storm overnight, they continued to work through the day, removing limbs from roads, pushing limbs back and conducting clean-up to further aid in the restoration of power so that power could be restored to those who had lost electricity,” Gilleberto added.

“We had a number of challenges that were focused in particular neighborhoods, but we were fortunate that didn’t have the widespread damage that some other communities appeared to have sustained,” he added.

Gilleberto added that public safety personnel greatly appreciated the public’s cooperation throughout this storm as well as all of the reports made to the police and fire departments about the damage as it was occurring.

“We are fortunate that we have engaged citizens who reach out to public safety to tell us what is going on in a neighborhood. In any public safety response, or in any response that the town conducts from any of its departments, having information greatly assists us in ensuring that we are responding the best we can to address the need.”

About 175 lose power

Power outages attributed to the storm occurred to an estimated 175 customers of the Reading Municipal Light Department (RMLD) in 14 different areas of town, Joyce Mulvaney of the RMLD told the Transcript.

North Reading had the most reported outages in the four-town region supplied by RMLD, whose service area also includes the towns of Reading, Wilmington and two-thirds of Lynnfield. However, North Reading fared much better overall than other area towns, including both Andover and North Andover, where a major National Grid outage resulted in power outages to 80 percent and 90 percent, respectively, of those towns.

RMLD had five crews working to restore power at various locations in the town starting early Monday morning. By Tuesday afternoon, power had been restored to all but two areas of town, on Wadsworth Road and Elma Road, affecting about 25 customers. Power was expected to be restored to these customers by Tuesday night. Despite the widespread destruction, no storm-related injuries were reported.

Special brush drop-off allowed

While brush is not normally permitted to be dropped off at the DPW yard waste center, due to the extenuating circumstances created by this storm, an exception is being made both this weekend and next weekend for residents only; no contractors or contractors’ vehicles will be allowed.

DPW Director Andrew Lafferty provided the following extended schedule to the Transcript at press time.

Compost Center drop off:

Due to the recent storm, the Compost Center at the DPW Garage at 166 Chestnut Street will be open at the following times to accept yard waste, including brush and branches (not larger than 10 inches in diameter):

 • Saturday/Sunday, November 4 and 5 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Saturday/Sunday, November 11 and 12 from 8 a.m. to 4 a.m.

Curbside collection

Curbside collection of yard waste will remain the same: including grass clippings, leaves and small branches (no greater than 3 inches in diameter and cut to lengths of no more than 3 ft.). Branches must be bundled and tied (not bagged). Waste must be curbside by 6:30 a.m. No plastic bags or barrels. Paper bags only.

• Saturday, November 18: curbside by 6:30 a.m.

• Saturday, December 2: curbside by 6:30 a.m.

Important safety information

Even with the immediate threat of this storm behind us, the town’s public safety personnel remind residents and businesses of important safety information in the wake of damaging storms such as the one experienced Sunday and Monday:

• Treat every downed utility wire as if it is live.

• Use caution while traveling. Drivers are reminded that even though a road may be open to traffic, there may be downed limbs partially obstructing travel lanes. Wet leaves will reduce braking capabilities. Be alert to coming upon pedestrians who may be forced to walk in the road due to tree limbs blocking sidewalks and other points of access.

• Those who operate a generator at their home or business are reminded to place it outdoors, facing away from any doors, windows and vents.

• Never use a generator inside a house, basement, or crawl space – not even inside a garage with the door open – due to the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning. When possible, place the generator five to 10 feet away from the structure.

For additional information, visit the town’s website at: