by Robert Stewart
A powerful storm with tornado-like characteristics ripped through Groton on Friday night, May 15 and in a span of 15 minutes toppled hundreds of trees and knocked power out to nearly half of the homes in town.
The weather event was part of frontal boundary that was moving on a trajectory from the north and west to a south and east direction. In Groton that storm boundary crossed the town at one of its widest points stretching from West Groton around the square to Cow Pond Brook Rd. and the transfer station to the north and east. Along that line, several sections of town received heavy damage including Longley Rd. and Chicopee Row around the cemetery, Martins Pond Rd., Hoyts Wharf Rd. and Old
The storm approached Groton at approximately 8:15 p.m. and touched down at several locations at approximately 8:20 p.m. The first outages occurred in the West Groton area and a couple of minutes later outages were reported in the Groton Center area. Around 8:22 p.m. high volumes of outages were reported in the Martins Pond Rd. area and then in the vicinity of Cow Pond Brook Rd. and the transfer station.
The hardest hit areas of town were in the north and east sections of town including Martins Pond Rd., Old Dunstable Rd., Hoyts Wharf Rd., and Cow Pond Brook Rd. Many homeowners described the wind force as unbelievably intense and some said it sounded like a freight train rumbling along the tracks. WBZ-TV reported this past Tuesday that the National Weather Service characterized the storm which passed through Groton and Westford as “Straight-Line” winds with speeds upto 90 mph.
The hurricane-force winds and heavy rain lasted less than 10 minutes and left the town crippled as several roads were blocked by dozens of downed trees. Groton Electric Light Department Manager Kevin Kelly said that by 8:30 p.m. there were approximately 1600 homes without power. There was also heavy damage to the baling hut at the transfer station and several private homes around town sustained heavy damage from falling trees on their homes.
Efforts to restore power began almost immediately but areas around Martins Pond Rd., Old Dunstable Rd., and Cow Pond Brook Rd. were severely blocked by multiple downed trees and inaccessible to power crews. By 2 a.m. Saturday morning, many homes had their power restored leaving the rest of the weekend for GELD to tackle the hardest hit areas of town.
By 3:30 a.m. Saturday, Kelly said he was still not able to travel or get to certain roads because of the devastation. “I hit a brick wall at that point,” he said. Kelly then stated, “I came to the realization at that time that things were bad and decided to call in mutual aid.” Municipal Power Companies (MMWEC) are organized as a unit and at 3:30 a.m. Kelly called the New England Public Power Association to request mutual aid. By 9 a.m. Saturday, crews from four other municipal power companies – Danvers, Middleton, Groveland and Littleton – arrived in Groton to lend assistance.
At this time approximately 300 homes were still without power. However, according to Kelly, these homes were in the hardest hit areas and accessing those areas still presented a major challenge. With 20 crew members working non-stop from 9 a.m. Saturday till 8 p.m. that evening, Kelly said they were able to get power restored to 140 of those homes. These included homes in the Martins Pond Rd. neighborhood and the Cow Pond Brook Rd. neighborhood.
Kelly sent the crews home at 8 p.m. and they regrouped at 5:30 a.m. Sunday to begin the work of getting all power restored. Another municipal electric company crew from West Boylston joined the other crews on Sunday to help in the effort. With 23 crew members working from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Kelly said most of the town had power restored and the outages that remained were individual services with problems on power lines ripped from homes and transformer issues. By the end of the day on Monday, Kelly said those problems had been addressed and power was fully restored to the town.
In a brief telephone interview on Monday, Kelly said he was exhausted but had enough energy to praise those who were indispensible for getting power back on line in a couple of days. He had high praise for Groton Electric linemen and also for the linemen from Danvers, Middleton, Groveland and Littleton. But, he saved his highest praise for DPW Director Tom Delaney and his highway crew. Kelly stated that without the quick work of Delaney and his highway crew in opening roads, Groton Electric would not have been able to complete what can rightly be called a power restoration miracle in the midst of overwhelming devastation.