The latest on Irene’s aftermath in Western Massachusetts

The view of the damage (a couple fallen limbs) from my back window.

Excuse the poor style and heavy concentration of links in this post. It is meant to be a general description of ‘Irene’s’ aftermath told through a number of local news sources.

Hurricane Irene may have eroded in strength from ‘hurricane’ to ‘tropical storm’ , as she churned up the Atlantic coast, but her fury has no doubt left much ruin in its wake;  unleashing her wrath as far South as Florida  and North as Maine, even inching across the border into Canada.

So far as many as twenty-one people in eight states have been reported as casualties of Irene, and millions could still be lacking power for the coming week. Some time in the early afternoon , Irene which had already reeked havoc in such states as North Carolina and Virginia ( even washing a live shark into the streets in Puerto Rico days ago) was downgraded to the status of a tropical storm as it headed north towards southern New England.

New York faced what is its first such hurricane warning in about twenty-five years, with the subway and transportation systems of the ‘city that never sleeps’ shutting down. Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the days leading up to the storm made history by ordering the largest ever evacuation of its kind, ordering people residing in low-lying areas that we’re seen as being vulnerable to the Hurricane to leave, and beaches all along the coast were evacuated, as states of Emergency were declared up and down the eastern seaboard.

There is still no word officially regarding the amount of damage inflicted in terms of dollars, since there are still tropical storm and flood warnings in effect.

In Massachusetts,  National Guard troops were dispatched to aid in any evacuations.

The winds were heavy, but in Western Massachusetts its flooding and the strain placed upon rivers, damns, and other bodies of water especially in Berkshire and Franklin counties; that will be the most pronounced mark left by Irene.

The Deerfield and Connecticut rivers that run through this rural section of Western Mass as well as smaller bodies of water already brimming  from the copious amounts of rainfall this Summer; have made these areas prone to heavy flooding.

Its’ reported that one woman was swept up in the mighty rush of the overflowing Deerfield River and is feared to have drowned in its waters.

Downed trees that have fallen on homes, building, and in roads; have also been sighted as have downed electrical wires. Roadways that experience steady traffic during morning commutes will also be closed due to flooding such as a seven mile tract of I-91 between Deerfield and Greenfield, Route 112 between Ashfield and Buckland, Route 66 and West Street in Northampton.

The downtown  area of Shelburne Falls is also said to have been the victim of flooding

 The Mill River in Florence overflowed causing a number of residents to be evacuated. Several other streets were closed in Northampton due to flooding.  The cresting of  many bodies of water including the Westfield river prompted many evacuations and the closing of sections of Route 20 and Union Street. Many in the neighboring towns of Chester and Huntington were forced to evacuate. 

Springfield and much of the surrounding areas while sustaining some damage, seems to have escaped the worst of the damage, though there are sporadic reports of fallen trees, downed power lines, and some flooding but less than in Franklin and Berkshire counties.No local casualties have been reported yet.

Power outages though were also prevalent with at least 16,000 Western Mass Electric Company (WMECO) said to have been without power. That number though has fallen according to them as they have sent out workers to make the necessary repairs and restore electricity to residents.

Communities in the western most part of the state practically hugging New York, were the ones with the largest number of power outages. Ninety-nine percent of customers in the hill towns of Hancock and Richmond are without powers as of midnight tonight.

Personally I waited out the storm in the basement with my brother, his fiance, and a bottle of BBC Steel Rail watching the movie ‘Identity’ (2003). Despite the heavy gusts and persistent rain, the only damage sustained was a couple of sheered tree limbs that fell in the backyard. I hope that is true for all of you.

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