Needham Handles 100+ Calls During Hurricane Sandy

Trees into houses, blown transformers and downed wires were among the calls local emergency crews responded to on Monday.

[UPDATE, Tuesday, 5:30 a.m.]

The number of local homes without power as of early Tuesday morning was down to about 1,097, or 9 percent of the NSTAR customer base in Needham, according to the company's Outage Map.

About 23 percent of NSTAR customers in Needham—about 2,814 households— were without power as of 9 p.m. Monday evening, as Hurricane Sandy continued to pound the region with strong winds and rain.

That number had been steadily climbing since about 2 p.m., as tree limbs and, in some cases, entire trees, came down on homes and power lines around town—causing transformers to blow in several locations, according to Needham Fire Chief Paul Buckley.

By about 7 p.m., Needham Police and Fire had received more than 100 calls related to the storm, Buckley said.

“The majority of the calls we had were for trees down into wires, with some about wires down and also some transformers that blew—a couple that actually caught on fire,” Buckley said.

The latter issue—blown transformers—led to a few frustrations among residents because firefighters responding to the scene had to wait for an NSTAR crew to arrive to cut the power before they could proceed, Buckley said.

In once case, a transformer in the area of 170 Gould St. blew and then caught fire and went out several times throughout the afternoon before crews could arrive to deal with the problem.

“The first call probably came in at around 3:30 p.m., and it wasn’t until probably close to 6:30 or 7 when they could actually take care of the problem and put the fire out,” Buckley said. “It wasn’t burning that whole time; it would burn for a while and then stop, and while it was out, the fire engine would leave and go to a different call, and then it would start again and they’d have to come back. It was frustrating for everyone involved.”

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With the power out all over town, there were several issues with traffic lights not functioning. Police and Department of Public Works crews set up temporary stop signs in those locations to keep the intersections safe.

“They worked on that over the weekend. The DPW and the Police Department brought some extra help in and they made a lot more of those temporary stop signs by using folding construction horses and attaching stop signs to them,” Buckley said.

Needham Police and Fire also received at least a half dozen calls throughout the day about trees falling into houses, the fire chief said. In one case, a neighbor living behind one of the affected homes on Eaton Street called in the damage.

“Luckily, we had nothing serious as far as injuries,” Buckley said.

He knew of no motor vehicle crashes reported during the storm and said there weren’t even any incidents reported on Route 128 near Needham.

“I think a lot of that is probably in direct relation to the fact that there weren’t that many vehicles out there traveling,” he said.

Needham also did not have any instances of serious flooding—there was some minor street flooding because of storm drains clogged with leaves and natural debris, but no cause for major road closures as of 7 p.m., Buckley reported.

One building, the Citibank building at 1000 Highland Ave., had some minor flooding in the basement—again, probably from clogged storm drains nearby.

Needham town offices, along with many businesses in town, were closed on Monday in preparation for the storm, and the special Town Meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. was postponed until Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Needham Public Schools also were closed on Monday as well as on Tuesday because of Hurricane Sandy. 

Buckley said he expected most town offices to be open on Tuesday, although possibly with limited staff so that those who live far away don’t have to come in.

The town has also discussed opening a respite center if a large number of Needham homes remain without power Tuesday morning.

“If a lot of people are still without power and there’s a need for them to go someplace that has electricity so they can get the news or charge their cell phones or whatever the case may be, we would probably try to open the library, as long as they have electricity,” Buckley said. “If the library is without power, Town Hall would be the second choice.”

For the most up-to-date information on the storm in Needham, including power outages, cancellations and closures, visit the Needham Patch Hurricane Sandy Info Center. 


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