Gusty Winds Whip Up Outages

February 26, 2019
A Westford resident who captured this photo of a tree on a minivan on Depot Road in Westford Monday said word at the scene was that there were no serious injuries. The incident was one of several in which high winds toppled trees across the region. Photo courtesy Shawna Poindexter Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

By Aaron Curtis

acurtis@lowellsun.com and

Mother Nature unleashed her wrath in the form of high winds that whipped across the region Monday leading to downed trees, power lines, and a series of power outages that crews were addressing into the evening hours.

The National Weather Service put out a forecast Monday afternoon warning of 65 mph wind gusts throughout the communities around Lowell and Fitchburg until 7 p.m. Meteorologists predicted sustained winds of 20 to 35 mph out of the west, with the peak gusts occurring between noon and 5 p.m.

Lowell Fire Chief Jeffrey Winward reported his department dealt with roughly 20 calls involving downed wires and trees throughout the day.

The power outage map provided on the National Grid website was freckled with active outages throughout the day. As of around 7 p.m. Monday, the active outages included:

* 2,533 Westford customers

* 1,600 Chelmsford customers

* 1,415 Lowell customers

* 1,167 Tyngsboro customers

* 946 Billerica customers

* 875 Dracut customers

* 607 Leominster customers

* 125 Tewksbury customers

“Outer Pawtucket Boulevard and outer Vanum Avenue will be without power for the next three to seven hours while repairs are made to several poles and wires down near Westminster Village,” Winward said shortly before 6 p.m. Monday.

A close call was addressed by emergency crews in Westford when a massive tree’s thick trunk snapped and came down on a minivan as it drove down Depot Street. Westford resident Shawna Poindexter took a photo of the damaged vehicle, which appeared buried among the tree’s branches as it came to rest in the road.

She did not see the occupant or occupants of the vehicle, but was informed by police that the wreck didn’t involve any serious injuries.

“I asked the officer if they were OK and he responded, ‘Just a few scratches,’” Poindexter said.

The minivan wasn’t as lucky. The vehicle, which “looked pretty wrecked,” was towed from the scene, according to Poindexter. Westford police and firefighters did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

In Fitchburg, one of the outages was caused by a large evergreen tree that fell across South Street, near Payson Street, snapping one utility pole and stretching power lines almost to the ground. Fitchburg’s Police Department blocked off South Street while crews removed the trees.

Similar calls were streaming across the emergency radio broadcast throughout the area Monday.

The National Weather Service advised residents to have their phones charged and flashlights ready in case of power losses overnight. Drivers were also encouraged to use extra caution on the road. In addition to falling trees and branches came warnings of gusts that could pull cars in either direction.

Winds were expected to be calmer on Tuesday, but cold temperatures were expected in their wake by Tuesday night, according to the National Weather Service.

Gusts are expected to be as high as 30 mph Tuesday, while the high temperature is expected to be around 25 degrees, meteorologists said. Tuesday night, the low is expected to reach 6 degrees, with a wind chill value as low as -5.

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis