FREETOWN, Mass. — Relieved that the state escaped the full brunt of Sandy's fury, Massachusetts officials offered a hand Tuesday to other hard-hit states in the region while monitoring the progress of utilities restoring power at home.
Gov. Deval Patrick said damage assessment teams that had been traveling the state since daybreak found no evidence of any serious infrastructure damage, though there were plenty of toppled trees and damage to individual homes and businesses. About 259,000 Massachusetts residents remained without power as of 10 a.m., down from some 400,000 at the height of the storm on Monday.
"We feel very fortunate, particularly as you look at some of the scenes and read some of the reports from New York and New Jersey and Connecticut," the governor said. He has been in touch with officials in those states to see what Massachusetts can do to help.
Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, head of the Massachusetts National Guard, said Tuesday that two H-60 helicopters had been sent to New Jersey and a handful of soldiers were headed to Connecticut. Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey said the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority was also prepared to offer technical assistance to New York City, if needed, to help restore service to its flooded subway system.
Many schools in Massachusetts remained closed, but residents in south coastal areas were mostly relieved that the 6-foot storm surge caused by the powerful hybrid storm did not cause more extensive damage.
Sarah Whittey of Freetown watched nervously Monday as water from the Assonet River rose behind her home, a historic house built in 1720 and known to local residents as "Aunt Kate's House."
"We have five steps in the back. When it came up to the second step, we were going to leave, but we saw it hold there so we decided to stay," Whittey said Tuesday.
"There were some prayers said on that back deck last night ... family first, friends, strangers, then property. We were very, very lucky."
At Grandpa's Place, a variety store in Assonet, the parking lot was flooded when the river surged over its banks Monday evening and poured into nearby yards.
Owner Liz Borges said she and her husband borrowed a truck and started loading up goods from the store.
"We loaded everything — beer, wine, soda, candy — everything," Borges said. "As soon as we got everything loaded, the water started to go back down. We didn't lose anything."
Patrick said during a briefing at the state's emergency management center in Framingham that 161 people spent the night in shelters around Massachusetts. Officials had opened enough shelters statewide to accommodate thousands, if necessary.
Truck driver Chris Marrero, 31, spent the night in a Red Cross shelter in New Bedford after the storm's high winds ripped the chimney and part of the roof off his apartment building and sent bricks and other debris crashing through a skylight in his neighbor's apartment.
No one was injured, but the building's roof was badly damaged and the city deemed the building unsafe. Residents, including Marrero and his wife and their 6- and 10-year-old sons, were evacuated and most spent the night at the shelter at Keith Middle School.
While Marrero says he has felt unsettled staying at the shelter, his sons have compared their stay to camping and "a big sleepover." The Red Cross opened the gymnasium so the kids could play basketball and volleyball.
Marrero said he is grateful no one was injured.
"It could have been way worse," he said.
The focus on Tuesday was expected to shift to power restoration, with utilities expected to give projections later in the day on when all power would be restored to customers. The governor said the progress would be closely monitored.
"Now is the time for the utility companies to show us there performance, and more to the point, to show their customers their performance," he said.
The power providers had been sharply criticized in the aftermath of two major storms last year in which some people waited a week for the lights to come back on.
Transportation was also returning to normal around the state on Tuesday. Service on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which shut down during the storm Monday, was fully restored by Tuesday with the exception of the D Branch of the Green Line, where buses were substituting for trolleys.
Ferry service also resumed to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket.
There were no reports of damage to runways at Boston's Logan International Airport, Patrick said. But commercial flight disruptions were expected to continue as a result of problems caused by the storm elsewhere along the East Coast.
Associated Press writer Bob Salsberg in Framingham contributed to this report.
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