Coastal areas evacuate, Boston transit shuts down

By Bob Salsberg

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Oct. 29 2012 2:02 p.m. MDT

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Hurricane Sandy lashed Massachusetts with strong winds and heavy surf Monday, prompting evacuations in some coastal areas and leaving thousands without power.

Public transportation ground to a halt in the Boston area and flights out of Logan International Airport were few. Wind gusts of up to 75 mph were expected on Cape Cod and flooding was a concern along much of the state's shoreline.

A mandatory evacuation was ordered in the Bliss Corner neighborhood of Dartmouth, and voluntary evacuations were suggested in other coastal communities including parts of Scituate, New Bedford, Lynn and Plum Island.

But most residents, like Tom and Lesley Chamberlain of Scituate, were reluctant to leave their seaside homes, even as the storm surge lapped at the base of a stair leading to their back door.

"The only thing that would make us leave is if the water got in the door," Tom Chamberlain said.

A steady stream of onlookers went to Scituate Harbor during high tide at midday to see rough waves splashing over docks and boats rocking back and forth in fierce winds. Police blocked off several streets in the town about 30 miles south of Boston.

More than 56,000 Massachusetts customers were without power by mid-afternoon. State officials said utilities that had been sharply criticized for their performances after two major storms last year were better prepared for this storm, with extra crews called in from other parts of the country to deal with the expected outages. Still, customers without power were told to be patient, since many line crews would not be able to safely begin repairs until the worst of the storm subsided.

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shut down all subways, buses and commuter rail at 2 p.m., because of the danger posed by strong winds.

"Shutting down service is not something we take lightly," said Richard Davey, the state Secretary of Transportation. The T gave several hours' notice before ending service, and Davey said he was not aware of any passengers being stranded at bus or subway stops.

Davey added that ridership had been down significantly in the morning as most people heeded advice to stay home and many businesses allowed employees to take the day off or work at home.

Gov. Deval Patrick, who declared a state of emergency ahead of the storm, said 1,300 National Guard troops have been deployed and several hundred more are on standby if needed.

"Caution is advised right now," he told reporters at the state's emergency management headquarters in Framingham. "The weather is hard to predict. We are doing the best we can to stay ahead of it, but it can be dangerous especially with winds at this velocity."

At Quincy's Wollaston Beach, waves were coming over the seawall Monday morning. Some people tried to keep up with morning routines like dog-walking or jogging, but most of the dozens who gathered there came to watch the storm.

Eight-year-old Emma Chenette of Braintree yelped for joy as waves hit her on the sidewalk as she ran back and forth in the froth.

"It's horrible," she said with a smile. "I like the water, but it just comes flying at me."

Emma's dog was too scared to get out of the family's Jeep.

Logan airport remained open, but cancellations were mounting and ticket agents seemed to outnumber passengers in Terminal A.

"I was supposed to fly out today and head home, but Hurricane Sandy had other ideas for me," said Shawn Hartman, 41, of San Antonio.

Hartman, a truck driver, dropped off a load of new trucks at a local dealership, then hopped a bus and train to get to Logan, only to find out his flight was canceled.

"I'm just resigned (to the wait)," he said. "They've got to do what they've got to do to keep everybody safe. I'd rather be here on the ground than, going down, you know?"

He added, "I'll get some good seafood in me."

Fishermen scrambled to secure their boats before the full fury of Sandy struck.

New Bedford fishing boat owner Carlos Rafael, who owns 48 scalloping and groundfish vessels, said he was soaking wet Monday after he and his crews worked to secure his fleet. Raphael said preparations began over the weekend for what's predicted to be a particularly strong storm surge in New Bedford.

"That's all I can do, there's nothing I can do," he said. "After that, just keep praying that it doesn't get too crazy. ... I'm going to have to be on standby on this one, just in case we get some nightmare."

U.S. Sen. John Kerry said representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency were on the ground in Massachusetts and he was confident that federal aid could be provided quickly to hard hit areas.

"This is a monster storm," Kerry said.

Associated Press writers Jay Lindsay and Mark Pratt in Boston, Denise Lavoie in Scituate and Bridget Murphy in Quincy contributed to this report.

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