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National Grid : Trees take a beating as many in Central Mass. wait for power

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03/09/2018 | 04:28 am

March 08--Russell Barber of Old Westboro Road in Grafton didn't realize how bad the storm was Wednesday night until he stepped out to shovel his driveway.

"I was going to try to clear some of the snow. I stepped outside and you could hear trees falling all over the place," he said. "Then a transformer blew."

As he looked on, a tree fell on power lines across from his house. Then two plow trucks hit the tree.

Like 90 percent of the residents of Grafton, Mr. Barber and his wife, Krystle, and their children Sebastian and Isabella were left without power for much of Thursday. But they were luckier than many in town. He had a generator, a gift from his father after the 2011 Halloween storm that caused extensive damaged throughout Central Massachusetts.

The region was battered by deep snow Wednesday night into Thursday. Worcester was hit with 16.4 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service. Sterling got 17.8 inches and Westboro registered 16.9 inches.

About 4:15 p.m., Worcester schools sent out a tweet saying that the plan is for school to be held at normal times on Friday.

Thousands remain without power. As of 3:45 p.m., 52,859 customers were without power in Worcester County, according to National Grid. Northboro was one of the hardest hit communities, with 5,745 customers with no power. Worcester had about 1,209 customers waiting for electricity, according to the utility.

Grafton was one of the hardest hit towns, with 5,475 customers without power.

On Countryside Lane in Grafton Thursday, Adam Deresienski was wishing he had something to heat his house. He was trapped there, unable to leave because his driveway was blocked by a fallen tree and a utility pole. He said he recently bought the house and had not fully moved in. He explained that he was there doing some work when he got snowed in Wednesday night. He was awakened by the sound of falling trees.

"I heard a loud crash at 4:30 in the morning," he said.

A tree had fallen and a utility pole had toppled, ripping wires from his house. Unable to leave and with no hope of getting help anytime soon, he went back to bed.

Many large tree branches dotted roadways through Grafton, victims of a storm that brought heavy, wet snow.

Millbury, Oxford, Sutton, Upton and many other communities south of Worcester found themselves digging out from under a foot or more of snow and also struggling to clear roads of broken trees and help residents without power. About the only place people in Grafton and surrounding towns could find hot coffee and a bite to eat was Dunkin' Donuts. Owner Brian Marino said the store has a generator that allowed it to stay open Thursday while other places were closed.

"I think we had everyone in Grafton here at one time or another today," he said.

Workers, some without power in their own homes, worked non-stop serving customers.

Sections of Worcester were also without power, and the city offered its Senior Center, at 128 Providence St., as a warming center for Worcester residents. The center has bathrooms, and charging stations for mobile devices, and residents may fill water containers there.

Meanwhile, National Grid is unlikely to be able to restore power to everyone who lost it in the two-day snowstorm in one day, according to a spokesman.

National Grid said it has 568 line crews and 300 tree crews working statewide.

In northern Worcester County the situation is better: Communities served by Unitil Corp. had only one reported outage, affecting four customers. The Shrewsbury municipal power company was reporting fewer than 20 customers out of power by 10 a.m. Municipal power companies in Ashburnham, Boylston, Holden, Paxton, Princeton, Sterling and Templeton all reported no outages.

There was no school in Worcester Thursday, the second snow day in a row, and many state offices were closed, with only essential workers coming in.

Thursday morning, cars and pedestrians slipped on the wet snow and trees, and power lines were felled, trapping some residents on their streets.

The speed limit on the Massachusetts Turnpike has returned to normal; it had been reduced to 40 mph during the height of the storm.

COMPLETE LIST OF SCHOOL CLOSINGS, EARLY DISMISSALS

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