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Arlington crews cleaning up fallen trees as town prepares for vote on leaf-blower ban

Posted by Your Town  July 19, 2012 08:41 AM

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Massachusetts Avenue in Arlington was blocked by a tree knocked down by the storm.


(Photo by Anna Burns)

It was the perfect storm.

Crews in Arlington were cleaning up downed trees Thursday morning -- as the town prepared for a unusual vote Thursday afternoon on whether to overturn a newly enacted ban on gas-powered leaf blowers.

"I think today we're using cranes, chippers and chainsaws," said Arlington Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, of workers efforts to clean up the storm damage.

As of Thursday morning, officials reported that hundreds of trees are down, dozens of homes are still without power and at least eight streets remain closed.

Police Chief Frederick Ryan said that despite all of the damage, there are no injuries to report.

Ryan said he hopes that since the damage was localized, and not as extreme across the state, police can draw on state and neighboring community resources to expedite the cleanup.

“We’ve summoned in a number of subcontractors, as well as state tree crews to help out,” he said.

The National Weather Service reported that a possible microburst shook Arlington at 6 p.m. Wednesday, casting 100 trees to the ground and crumbling a brick garage on Harlow Street.

Meanwhile, polls will be open from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday in Arlington for the rare special election in which voters will be asked whether to overturn the measure, which would prohibit the use of gas-powered leaf blowers on private land between May 15 and Oct. 15.

Before Wednesday's storm, the town estimated that holding the election was expected to cost the town about $30,000.

Thursday morning, Chapdelaine said local and state crews were working overnight, along with utility companies to clean up downed trees, limbs and power lines. Chapdelaine estimated more than 100 tree were affected by the storm and the National Weather Service will send representatives to the town today to assess the storm damage.

On Wednesday, local blogger Anna Burns said the storm was brief but powerful.

"To look out the windows it seemed as if you were going through a car wash,'' Burns wrote.

Trees were knocked down on Adams Street and near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Foster, about two blocks from Spy Pond, she reported.

Meanwhile, the town reported Wednesday night that "East Arlington was heavily impacted with flooding and tree damage by this afternoon’s thunderstorm.''

Thursday, Chapdelaine said most of the damage seemed to be focused in East Arlington and by this morning NStar was reporting about 22 people were without electricity in the town. He said one of the worst-hit areas he has seen is on Belknap Street near spy pond, where almost every tree had damage.

Chapdelaine said crews are prioritizing restoring power today and removing trees that were knocked over into homes.

In a notice issued by the town Thursday morning, tree damage was reported around the Hardy School, but the building is accessible and all polling places will be open today. The town is asking residents to exercise caution in the area.

"Officials ask residents to avoid travel in East Arlington so this work can continue unimpeded. Further updates will be posted tomorrow online at arlingtonma.gov,'' the town said on its website.

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Arlington school employee Bob Noviello helps with cleanup at the Hardy School Thursday where heavy winds knocked down several trees.

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