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Staff Writer

AYER — The ice storm that hit most of New England at the end of last week is still wreaking havoc in some of the communities in the Nashoba Valley.

While Ayer is not as bad off as Lunenburg, Leominster and the neighboring town of Harvard, nearly 19 percent of the town was still without power as of Monday.

“That translates into about 600 residents,” police Chief William Murray said. “I don’t know the exact number, but that is the estimate.”

Murray said the problem started on Thursday night when the temperature dropped and falling rain started to freeze, causing branches and whole trees to fall on power lines throughout the town and the region.

Fire Chief Robert Pedrazzi said his department took a proactive approach to the situation.

“We went out and found out where all the lines were down, so we could tell National Grid,” Pedrazzi explained. “My guys also hand-delivered (emergency information sheets) to those residents that didn’t have power.”

From Friday morning to mid-day Saturday, Pedrazzi said his department responded to more than 60 calls, while the Police Department is still fielding calls from residents asking when their power is going to be turned back on.

“It’s tough because we don’t have an exact date as to when the power is going to be back on,” Murray said. “People are frustrated and rightfully so.” He said National Grid told police they would hopefully have things up and running by Friday, Dec. 19, townwide.

National Grid has held conference calls with municipalities daily to give them updates, but Pedrazzi said at that point they still didn’t have definitive answers as to when the power would be up and running.

The town did prepare for a shelter for those forced to leave their homes due to a lack of heat, at the police station.

“The Fire Department has 60 cots and they gave us 12 of them,” Murray said. “We have plenty of blankets to keep everyone warm. The only thing we suggest is people bring their own pillows because we can’t supply them.”

Not only did the Fire Department loan the 12 cots to the police station, but the fire house was the backup location for a shelter if the community room at the police station filled up.

“We actually only had one person come to the shelter and he was from Shirley,” Murray said. “People were calling and asking if they could bring their pets with them if they decided to leave their homes — of course they can. We can’t take care of them or watch them, but if people are forced to leave their homes they should be able to bring their pets with them.”

The Council on Aging also offered the use of their own community room, if the police and fire stations had filled up.

Families on Rosewood Avenue found themselves in a unique situation on Saturday — there was a live wire down across the road, preventing people from leaving the street.

Selectman James Fay commended the Police and Fire departments for their hard work over the weekend, but said Jeff Hemmenway, Zodiac Development owner, deserved special praise.

“He opened his property to those of us on Rosewood (Avenue) so we could get to Groton School Road,” Fay explained. “But, not everyone has four-wheel drive in their cars, so it was a little bit of off-roading.”

Fay said Hemmenway got his tree service crew together and cut a hole through the trees that separated Rosewood Avenue from the apartment building complex, then placed boards over the trenches so cars could safely drive through the area.

“It was about 4 p.m. when (Hemmenway) and his crew were finished and it was getting pretty dark out,” Fay said. “He walked people through the woods all the way out to Groton School Road.”

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