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Irene Packs a Long Lingering Punch

A tree across Mechanic Street in Upton closed the road from Sunday morning til Tuesday

Not only did the buildup to Hurricane Irene seem to take forever and the storm itself battered Mendon and Upton for close to 24 hours but the after effects were still being felt in the area as The Town Crier went to press on Tuesday. Beginning Saturday, August 27 with tropical downpours the hurricane, which later became a tropical storm as it came ashore in New York City, battered the area with winds up to 50 miles per hour and over six inches of rain through Sunday night.

The combination of saturated soils and strong winds resulted in countless of uprooted trees in the two towns that shut down roads, snapped utility poles, ripped out wires or pulled down cables leaving almost every home and business in the dark and delaying the opening day of school for the Mendon Upton Regional School District.

According to National Grid, which provides electricity to businesses and homes in both towns, 87 percent of its customers in Upton or 2,406 out of 3,006 users were without power as of Monday morning, August 29. Mendon was even worse – 96 percent of the electric company customers were without power or 2,349 out of 2,422.

Vanessa Charles, a National Grid, spokesperson, said the company was working as fast as it could it restore power but because of the number of trees pulling wires or poles down across the state it was going to take awhile before the electricity was restored. Later on Monday, a public service announcement sent to all National Grid customers stated that power to some neighborhoods would not be restored before the Labor Day weekend.

Charles said the company had its tree crews out during the storm on Sunday helping clear trees from the wires and turning off electricity if poles or wires were reported down. That work continued on Monday, August 29, as did an overall assessment of what repairs were needed in each location. The actual work of rewiring, reinstalling breakers and transformers and replacing poles was expected to begin on Tuesday.

Police in both towns reported many road closures due to downed trees. Upton Police Chief Michael Bradley said as of Monday morning Christian Hill Road, Glenview, Grafton Road near the Grafton town-line, Shore Drive, West River Road near the Northbridge town-line and Mendon Street near the Mendon town-line were all still closed due to downed or low hanging wires caused by falling trees. Milford Street, Rt. 140, was also closed Monday morning but opened later in the day. Most of the major roads in Upton had reopened by Tuesday morning.

Up to Tuesday at noon, power had been lost at the Police and Fire Stations along with Town Hall, which were all running off emergency generators. Because power was out at the stoplight at the intersection of Rt. 140 and Maple Avenue, the state had installed temporary four way stop signs and Bradley had an officer directing traffic at the intersection during rush hours.

He added that only two structures had suffered any significant damage from falling trees – the Upton Grange building which had roof damage on one corner and a home of River Street, which also suffered some minor damage.

Mendon Police Lieutenant Donald Blanchette had a similar report from Mendon. He said Park, Asylum Mowry, Washington, Northbridge, Maple, Main, Millville, George, Blackstone, Providence near Hartford Avenue East, Bellingham and Lovell Streets had all been closed during the storm due to fallen trees which resulted in downed or hanging electrical wires. Many of the major roads remained closed through Monday but were reopened by Tuesday morning. He noted that poles had been snapped off or ripped from the ground along Maple St. while the downed wires on Northbridge St. were in flames and arcing until the National Grid crews could cut the power to the area. "It was pretty spectacular," said Blanchette.

He reported to the only building in town to suffer any significant damage was the Stop N Save, the former XtraMart, at the corner of Main St. and Rt. 16 when a tree fell on part of its roof. He added a car located on Cape Road, Rt. 140, had also been damaged by a falling tree.

On Monday, generators were running the Mendon Police and Fire stations and the Mendon Town Hall was closed due to the lack of power.

Both Bradley and Blanchette said there had also been a rise in water bodies during the storm and some ponding on the low-lying roads but the water dissipated quickly once the rain had stopped. The only flooding in the towns had taken place in the basements of many residences. Firefighters were helping townspeople pump out their cellars in both towns. No serious injuries or accidents were reported in either town.

Blanchette and Bradley said National Grid, Verizon, public safety officials and public works employees had been working hard together to ensure the safety of residents and make sure the roads were open again as soon as possible. Mendon Highway Department and Upton Department of Pubic Works employees were both on duty during the storm helping clear debris from the roads in the towns. According to Mendon Highway Department Administrative Assistant, Linda Hawkes Mendon residents may drop off brush cleared from their yards at the Highway Barn on Providence St. during normal business hours.

Mendon made water available at the Fire Station for homeowners whose private wells were not working because of the power outage

Besides dealing with a lack of electricity at home, families with children had a few more vacation days for their youngsters since the first day of school for the Mendon Upton Regional School District, scheduled for Tuesday, August 30, was delayed until at least Wednesday, August 31. Blackstone Valley Tech in Upton cancelled classes on Monday but resumed school on Tuesday, August 30.

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