Hurricane Sandy leaves hundreds of downed trees in its wake

The trees are the story today around Massachusetts. Toppled on roads, yards, houses, cars. Bending power lines like guitar strings. Roots up in the air.

Now, with Hurricane Sandy fading into memory, it’s time to clean them up.

With chainsaws revving, crews are working to restore power in dozens of Massachusetts communities after damaging winds raked the state.

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“We have a fair amount of tree damage and a number of trees that have taken down wires and others that hit houses,” said Paul Chagnon, assistant fire chief in Newton.

Chagnon said firefighters will have a better estimate on the exact number of downed trees once crews go out and start working.

All of the calls the Newton Fire Department has received regarding trees that crashed into homes or tore down wires have had at least an initial visit, he said.

But in some cases, the firefighters have to wait for the utility company to suspend power to the home before removing a tree, Chagnon said.

“We can’t really do much with trees until we figure out the power situation,” he said.

Norwell Fire Chief Andrew Reardon got an update from National Grid at midnight that 78 percent of the town was without power.

“We have a lot of trees down, a lot of lines down,” Reardon said. “We are going through this morning trying to identify our priorities and trying to restore as much power as we can.”

He said it wasn’t the worst storm he had seen, but that there was quite a big mess to clean up.

“I look at the poor folks in New York and New Jersey and my heart goes out to them,” he said.

He hoped to get an update from National Grid by later today.

Sandy’s winds caused damage across Cambridge as well. Trees, wires, and branches were strewn across streets, as in many Massachusetts neighborhoods.

Crews from the Cambridge Department of Public Works were sent to start the cleanup process this morning. Trees had fallen into houses, or onto cars, on Larch Road and Howard Street as well as in other parts of the city.

More than 10 roads are closed in Marlborough, blocked by a mix of trees and wires that fell during the hurricane’s high winds, the city reported on its official Facebook page. Work is being done to clean up the debris in these areas. Marlborough is also experiencing some flooding on Donald Lynch Boulevard, the page said.

Twenty percent, or about 4,000 residents, are still without electricity and efforts are underway to restore power to the remaining homes, the city reported.

Weston Town Manager Donna VanderClock said trees were down and tangled with wires throughout town

The town hasn’t seen significant response to storm damage, and roughly half the town is without power. VanderClock said she was worried because emergency vehicles could not get through, and unless they made significant progress clearing roads today, school would have to be closed Wednesday, too.

“It seems like there’s been more response in the other towns than there has been in Weston,” she said.

During last year’s Hurricane Irene, trees snapped under heavy snow because they still had their leaves. Similarly, trees across the state fell victim to Sandy’s winds Monday because their branches were not yet bare, an expert said.

“When the leaves are on, there’s a lot more force or drag of the wind that affects the tree,” said Brian Kane, a professor of commercial arboriculture with the Massachusetts Arborists Association.

Certain types of trees, such as evergreens, are more susceptible to being blown over by winds because they always have leaves, he said.

“Species plays a role in the likelihood of failure but it’s more the physical qualities of the tree itself,” Kane said. “More often than not, it’s a previous incident that maybe caused decay in the tree.”

Trees with structural defects, like weak branch unions, are more likely to fall, he said. “The tree can withstand less just because of the defects,” Kane said.

The storm brought an early end to the foliage season New England is so famous for, he noted. “Foliage was definitely on its way out and with all of that wind, it certainly blew off any remaining leaves,” Kane said. “It’s much less likely that you’ll see good color now.”

The National Weather Service reported a peak wind gust of 62 miles per hour both in East Boston and Wakefield Tuesday evening. Wrentham had a peak wind gust of 77 miles per hour, the weather service reported.

Wellfleet saw winds gust as high as 81 miles per hour and a buoy off Cuttyhunk Island recorded winds as high as 83 miles per hour, according to the weather service.

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