Wind Breaker – Mother Nature Topples a Telephone Pole and a Tree During Windstorm

-By Joseph Domelowicz

For the Transcript

These photographs, taken by Winthrop Fire Lt. Vincent Zuppulla, depict the damage last week's windstorm caused on Birch Road.

The snow and ice storms of this winter have finally abated, but that doesn’t mean that town emergency crews arefinally getting some well-deserved rest.

Quite the contrary, as a high windstorm swept through the region last Friday night into Saturday, the town sustained two major windstorm incidents that were met with swift action by fire and public works crews responding to the calls for help.

At approximately 8:41 a.m. on Saturday morning, Winthrop firefighters were called to a report of a telephone pole down on Chamberlain Avenue, which pulled the electrical and phone connections out of several house, leaving residents without power and phone service, until utility company workers could get to the homes and restore service. Fortunately, there was no persistent danger from the Chamberlain Avenue incident, but the same could not be said for the second incident on Birch Street a short time later.

According to information provided by Fire Chief Paul Flanagan and Public Works Director Dave Hickey, following the report and initial response of fire crews to Chamberlain Avenue, a second report came in about a downed tree on Birch Street.

“It was a big dramatic tree, a 50-foot Silver Maple on Birch Road, that fell across the street and onto two parked cars in a driveway across the street,” said Hickey. “There didn’t appear to be much damage to the homes there, but the cars were a total loss.”

According to Flanagan, the damage to the cars was the least of the concerns from the downed Maple tree.

“The tree pulled out the electrical services to four or five homes and fell across and ripped down the wires on a nearby pole,” explained Flanagan. “After that, the neutral conductor, or ‘ground line’ in layman’s terms, came into contact with a ‘hot’ or live wire that was also downed by the falling tree.”

The effect of the neutral wire being charged was that several of the homes that had lost their electrical services, became charged with electricity and were therefore a danger themselves to the people inside them.

“In one house we had water and gas pipes glowing bright red (with electricity) and even the siding on one house was charged,” said Flanagan. “It was a bit of a touchy situation, because anybody walking by and grabbing on to a chain link fence in the area, while wearing the wrong shoes could’ve been electrocuted.”

According to Flanagan, fire crews effected an evacuation of two homes and began monitoring the pipes and power lines inside three homes using infrared equipment to guard against a spontaneous electrical fire in the neighborhood, until National Grid work crews arrived.

“Once they (National Grid) assessed the situation, they cut power to the whole street, so that their works crews could do what they had to do, to address the situation and get power flowing to the street again,” said Flanagan.

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