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Isaias Leaves Power Outages, Downed Trees In Berkshire County

A map of Massachusetts with various municipalities in different colors.
Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency's map of municipalities impacted by Hurricane Isaias as of August 5th, 2020.

Thousands are still without power in Berkshire County in the wake of Hurricane Isaias.

Though far from the coast, parts of Berkshire County were walloped as Isaias came up the Eastern Seaboard Tuesday.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency identified over 5,000 without power as of Wednesday night, with most of the outages in South County.

Great Barrington, Massachusetts town selectboard chair Steven Bannon says the Southern Berkshires’ largest community, of around 7,000, is experiencing unprecedented disruptions.

“There’s still quite a few places without power," said Bannon. "The last I saw was 500-600 residents who don’t have power, and some don’t expect it back until late Friday. Lot of uprooted trees. Typical storm damage, but we don’t typically see that here.”

The situation was more serious in nearby Sandisfield, population around 900.

“The storm knocked out power around 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon," said Brian O’Rourk. "Basically took out power to around 70% of the homes in Sandisfield at that point. And we declared a state of emergency at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday evening. And at that point we closed all our roads and called in the power crews and hoped for cleanup.”

O’Rourke is the chair of the town select board. He says Sandisfield officials gathered with representatives of Eversource, the main regional energy company, and State Representative Smitty Pignatelli Wednesday to work out a plan.

“Unfortunately, the three crews we were promised turned into one from Eversource," O'Rourke told WAMC. "We made a few more calls and we ended up getting some additional help. There were a lot of towns looking for power crews. So as of last night, we had restored power to quite a few places. We were somewhere at around 15% or 20% outages for the entire town, and now the plan for today is that we’ve got three crews in town and they’re telling us that by midnight tonight everyone in town will have power again.”

Neighboring Otis fared better. Town select board chair Bill Hiller praised Eversource’s response to the storm.

“I mean, there’s some trees down, but it’s been worse," said Hiller. "There’s been some power outages. Again, it’s been worse. All in all, I think it’s not terrible. Obviously if you’re someone who still doesn’t have power, that’s not good. But I don’t think the numbers were that bad.”

In largely rural Southern Berkshire County, the roads posed a challenge as Isaias felled trees.

“It was Tuesday afternoon and I was driving home and just swerving left and right avoiding the tree debris," said Sage Radachowsky, who lives in New Marlborough. “I had to use my electric chainsaw and clear the road to let cars through, including myself, in a couple of places just to get home on Tuesday. There were a lot of wires down, too – always be careful, never cut when there’s a high power wire down of course. And then, Wednesday morning, I was trying to get to work and I couldn’t get through. One road was blocked. I went around a different way, and then there was actually burning tree across the road! There was a tree on fire blocking my way.”

He said he encountered at least five blocked roads in the area after the storm.

“The town was out and about on Wednesday clearing up debris, and most of those roads are passable now," Radachowsky told WAMC. "A few are still blocked, but most of them are moving.”

While he got power back Thursday morning, many in the region still have not.

“I was just helping a guy hook up a generator to get water for his animals," Radachowsky said. "Most people have wells outside of Great Barrington, so you need that power to get the water up. Hopefully people have backup generators if they’re really relying on that water pressure.”

Radachowsky said the South County he knows was prepared for the storm.

“Most people have chainsaws and generators and they kind of know what to do," he said. "Hopefully we’re hardy country people for the most part!”

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