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WESTPORT — More than 200,000 customers went without power for a second day, and some local roads remained blocked by trees as Hurricane Sandy cleanup crews worked Tuesday to clear flooded areas, unclog debris-strewn roads, and repair power lines.
Overall, damage was relatively modest, and state officials expressed relief that the area was spared the vast destruction that struck the New York and New Jersey coasts.
“We are very, very fortunate indeed,” Governor Deval Patrick said at a news conference to update recovery efforts. “It turned out OK, on the whole.”
After the storm, more than 30 “rapid response” teams were dispatched across the state to assess the damage. Utilities reported that power outages were concentrated in coastal towns, which were battered by high winds and tides, and in leafy suburbs, which sustained significant tree damage.
Still, the massive storm proved far less destructive in the state than Tropical Storm Irene, which knocked down rows of trees last summer, emergency officials said. In many cases Tuesday, crews had to remove just one or two fallen trees to clear a road, speeding recovery efforts.
“The cleanup is going to be a lot quicker, and that’s going to help the utilities as well,” said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the state’s emergency management agency. “The bounce-back from this is going to be pretty quick.”
Patrick said state regulators will keep a close eye on power companies’ progress in restoring service. “Now is the time for them to perform,’’ Patrick said.
Sandy’s strongest winds, which in some spots topped 60 miles per hour, were largely confined to the coast, Judge said. The storm surges that washed ashore soon receded.
Bruce Carlisle, who directs the state's office of coastal zone management, said early reports showed appreciable erosion along southern beaches and the islands. In certain areas, up to 10 feet of shore was lost to the charging seas.
But compared with what could have been, it felt “like we dodged a bullet,” Carlisle said.
As Sandy’s fury gave way to an unusually mild fall morning, life generally returned to normal. Dozens of school systems remained closed, but regular MBTA service had mostly resumed, and state government and courts reopened.
Although Logan International Airport sustained little damage, about half its flights were canceled Tuesday because of disruptions caused by the storm. Amtrak trains along the Northeast Corridor were idle for the second straight day.
Full service will not return to the Green Line’s D branch until at least Wednesday as crews clear downed trees and repair damaged equipment, MBTA officials said.
In Boston, crews responded to more than 600 reports of downed trees, with the highest concentration on side streets in West Roxbury. But overall the city fared well, with no reports of major damage or flooding.
“The storm was pretty gentle to us,” Jett Thomas, 45, said as she cleared branches in front of her Roxbury home.
On the south coast of Massachusetts, where severe flooding was feared, officials felt fortunate it was not worse.
“The damage is not as bad as I was expecting,” said Brian Beaulieu, deputy director of emergency management in Westport, a coastal town near Fall River. “From what was forecasted, I expected more.”
Some homes lost shingles or siding, and a few waterfront properties experienced minor flooding. But the storm did not cause significant structural damage, he said.
When he heard the crash of a falling chestnut tree, Wes Norman, 83, of Westport, feared his roof might have been damaged by the impact. But other than a few missing shingles and a fallen power line, there was no harm done.
As Norman waited Tuesday for a contractor to help remove the splintered tree, he drove around on a small tractor collecting branches. This storm was not as bad as other storms he has lived through, all the way back to the Hurricane of 1938, but it was bad enough.
A fallen tree cost Louis Elias his power. But by morning, work crews had arrived, and the Westport man stoically shifted into cleanup mode.
“Trees fall, leaves fall,” the 50-year-old said. “It could have been worse.”
On Monday, rising water licked the front steps of Gardner Lane’s Westport shoreline home, close enough that his two young daughters could have dipped their toes. But with the house shielded by dunes, the basement stayed dry.
In suburban communities like Newton and Norwell, the sound of chain saws became a familiar refrain as crews worked to clear roads and repair downed lines. Continued...