Nor'easter triggers power outages, closes roads, and causes fires

Mar 5, 2018

A slow-moving powerful Nor’easter on March 2 and 3 left thousands without power, downed trees, and caused fires in Dartmouth.

The nor’easter began early Friday morning, but rapidly intensified in the afternoon. Peak wind gusts were recorded at 65 MPH and torrential rain continued for much of the day. Late Friday night, the storm transitioned into snow, with less than one inch recorded.

At the height of the storm, a Dartmouth firefighter assisted in rescuing a man when his car became submerged in Clarks Cove.

Numerous main roads and side streets were left impassable days after the storm, and several hundred residents remained without power on March 5, with a majority of power restoration complete by midnight that day.

Dartmouth’s police department and three fire districts were kept busy with calls during the storm. Police responded to more than 1,000 calls in a 24-hour period, according to Det. Kyle Costa.

Fire District No. 3, which covers northern Dartmouth and the Route 6 area,

reported the most with about 63 calls on Friday alone between 2 p.m. and midnight, according to Deputy Chief Theodore Borges.

A majority of the calls were for trees and power lines in roadways.

Crews also responded to several reports of poles on fire and trees on vehicles, and helped with cleaning roads and pumped water out of flooded basements.

“Stay away from anywhere there are trees down, because there could be live wires down, making the tree live,” Borges warned residents.

District No. 2 reported between 30-40 calls in its southwestern coverage area, many of which came in within a 2-3 hour period. That included a tree and power lines which had fallen onto a school bus on White Oak Run, according to Chief Tim Andre.

The bus had finished dropping students off. Only the driver was on board the bus at the time.

With live wires near the vehicle, the driver remained inside until fire crews arrived. The school bus driver was not injured.

“The best thing to do is stay in the vehicle,” Andre said, noting electrocution is a serious hazard when exiting a vehicle with live wires nearby.

Emergency crews also helped a person whose car was struck by a falling tree. The driver only sustained minor injuries.

District No. 1 reported 39 calls in its southeastern area - including Padanaram and Bliss Corner - on Friday.

On Saturday, crews responded to several homes to help pump water out of flooded basements, according to Deputy Chief Jake Bettencourt.

All three fire districts also battled a house fire in a neighborhood off of Tucker Road after downed power lines sparked a fire at 5 East River Drive.

Dartmouth Public Schools were open on March 2. According to Superintendent Bonny Gifford, afternoon bus delays of up to 20 minutes were reported, most due to blocked streets.

Powerful storm surges and rough seas were also reported along Padanaram harbor and the coastline, according to Harbormaster Steve Melo.

Smith Neck Road and Gulf Road had to be closed due to flooding, and winds were so powerful they ripped shingles off of a Harbormaster’s Office shack located on Dias Landing.

Seaweed and marine debris also littered the shoreline along the harbor.

Sailboats docked on land at the New Bedford Yacht Club broke free and managed to enter the harbor due to the strong winds.

There were few boats in the harbor, limiting damage to vessels.

Construction equipment on the Padanaram causeway was washed away as well, although it is unclear if the causeway itself was damaged in the storm.

A statewide shellfishing ban went into effect last Thursday in advance of the storm.

Melo said the ban has since been extended until further notice due primarily to the heavy rainfall.

The strong coastal winds persisted with the storm throughout the weekend as the storm stuck around in the ocean for a long period of time.

“It was the storm that never left,” Melo said.