Hundreds Of Thousands In The Dark After Storm
It could be days before power is restored to all of the hundreds of thousands of people who lost electricity during an early-season weekend storm that dumped wet, heavy snow across the state, particularly in western and central Massachusetts.
Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency, allowing him to mobilize the National Guard to help hard-hit cities and towns starting at dawn Sunday.
According to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, more than 650,000 customers were without power early Sunday.
Before this weekend, most parts of Massachusetts had seen no more than an inch of snow from an October storm, with the record closer to 6 inches in higher elevations. Some places in western Massachusetts got as much as 29 inches from Saturday into Sunday.
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"It's not only a lot of snow, but a lot of the heaviest wettest snow that you ever want to see out there," said Peter Judge, spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
Crews were working to restore electricity to hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities first and could not say how long it might take to get power back on for everyone.
"This is not going to be a quick fix," Judge said. "It's totally smashing any historical records."
At least one death was blamed on the storm, a 20-year-old Springfield man electrocuted when he stepped on a downed wire. The man, who was not identified, stopped when he saw police and firefighters examining downed wires and stepped in the wrong place, police Capt. William Collins said. Power was out in much of the city and lines were down all over.
Western Massachusetts Electric Co. spokeswoman Sandra Ahearn told The Republican of Springfield that people could be without power for days. Just two months ago, Irene knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of people and some remained in the dark for a week, prompting complaints about how utilities responded.
"It's a little startling. I mean, it's only October," said Craig Brodur, who was playing keno with a friend at Northampton Convenience in western Massachusetts when the power went out Saturday night, forcing the half-dozen people inside to scatter.
The forbidding forecast had Boston Mayor Thomas Menino urging Occupy Boston activists who've been camped out on a downtown square for weeks in an anti-Wall Street protest to leave for the night.
But media volunteer Jason Potteiger said Saturday night that about 200 people still staying in tents at the site were in good spirits and the people running the food tent had more donations of hot meals than they knew what to do with.
"The term solidarity is used a lot in this movement, and I think the sentiment that's all over camp is that if Oakland and Denver can make it through tear gas and rubber bullets, we can make it through a little snow and sleet," he said.
The bad weather did not deter Crystal Sibley, a Smith College student from Virginia who was out Saturday night shopping for a Halloween costume at a store called Faces on Main Street in Northampton that still had power.
"It's definitely odd buying your Halloween stuff when it's snowing out," she said. "It would be totally weird if snow canceled Halloween or something."
The weather's expected to turn more seasonable next week, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s.
The WBUR Newsroom and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
This article was originally published on October 28, 2011.
This program aired on October 28, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.