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Snapping branches sounded like gun shots in the night


TOWNSEND — Ann Oakes awoke at 4 a.m. on Friday to the sound of a tree crashing through her roof.

“It sounded like my house was blowing up,” she said.

Frozen tree limbs started snapping Thursday night all around Oakes’ Barker Hill Road home. Things got worse as the night progressed and power lines and utility poles broke all over town.

“It sounded like AK-47s were going off all night,” she said.

Oakes is staying at a motel in Groton while her home is being repaired. She has still not returned to her job as a nurse.

“It has been a nightmare,” Oakes said. “I worked as an ER nurse for years. I’m a pretty strong lady, but this is rough.”

Oakes was at her house Monday afternoon to check on her cat. The pine tree caved in most of her roof, now covered with tarp, and punched holes through the ceiling inside the house.

Oakes is thankful for the help she has received, from the firefighters who first responded to her call, to her insurance agent and even her roofing contractor.

“People have been so kind,” she said.

More than half of Townsend homes and businesses got power back by Monday afternoon, according to Unitil, and town administrator Greg Barnes is hopeful more progress can be made.

“Realistically, it could take a few more days,” Barnes said.

Some Townsend residents use neighboring Groton’s electric service, National Grid.

Barnes is pleased with the town’s recovery efforts, but the Unitil response only got started late Friday, he said.

“There wasn’t a (Unitil) truck out until the afternoon on Friday,” Barnes said. “That was a little disappointing.”

The recovery may be slow for some people living far away from main roads in town, Barnes said. The town is doing everything it can to make the process go faster, he said.

Fire Chief Donald Klein said firefighters and EMTs at the station have been working nonstop alongside police officers and public works crews.

Downed trees and power lines in the roads are being cleared, flooded basements pumped out and people checked on to make sure they are safe, Klein said.

“I’m tired,” Klein admitted.

Many side roads in town still need to be cleared before power can be restored, he said.

“The main streets in and out of town are clear,” Klein said.

Fire Capt. Michael Grimley said “the hilly sections really got it bad.”

People still without power are urged to go to the shelter set up at the ” Brook Middle School.

Residents from Townsend and Ashby can get a hot meal, take a shower, get fresh water and a cot for the night, Barnes said. Barnes has been staying at the shelter himself, despite the fact his house in Lunenburg has power from a generator.

“I wanted to help out,” Barnes said. “We have a number of people who are doing an excellent job there.”

Barnes likes being able to meet people, even in the current situation. “It was a learning experience,” he said. “I got to meet a lot of people I never would have otherwise.”

There were around 40 people in the shelter on Sunday night, Barnes said.

The shelter is also taking pets, so long as they are well-behaved and caged. The pets are segregated from the general human populace to accommodate people with allergies, he said.

The shelter has housed dogs, cats, birds and lizards since it opened, Barnes said.

“I think there was even a fish or two,” Barnes said. “It was kind of like a Noah’s ark.”

Townsend residents with questions or concerns about the outage are asked to call the communications center at 978- 597-2242, or the town hall during business hours at 978-597-1700.