AYER — Recovery efforts continue in Ayer in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
At its peak Monday into Tuesday, a stretch of roadway was closed by police on Route 2A by the Shirley town line. There was also flooding on the Ayer rotary.
School closed on Monday and Tuesday for the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District, resuming Wednesday.
Oakridge Drive closed Monday afternoon when a massive tree fell onto wires, knocking out power for that neighborhood and beyond. As of Wednesday morning, that road remained blocked to through traffic.
It’s not the first time Oakridge has suffered from tree-related outages. At Tuesday’s selectmen meeting, Oakridge Drive resident Scott Houde visited the board before returning to his darkened home.
Houde said it’s a recurring theme — a large tree falling at the intersection of Oakridge Drive and Groton Harvard Road, causing “infrastructure damage” to the grid. Houde asked if the Ayer DPW could enter and remove weakened trees from lots in that area, and at other locations across town, where downed trees have historically wreaked havoc on the electric supply during storms.
“This is the third time in five years” for Oakridge Drive, said a weary Houde. “It gets kind of second hand to be without power for days.”
Chairman Jim Fay suggested “shade trees are under our purview” if they’re near sidewalks. DPW Superintendent Mark Wetzel said, “If the power company deems it’s going to be a potential problem for their lines, then it’s their responsibility,” said Wetzel. For the DPW to remove a tree, the tree “does have to be on town property,” said Wetzel. “And the tree warden must also be involved.”
Regarding the electricity restoration rate, Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand said the Ayer police, fire and DPW were “doing everything from our end. What needs to be done is in the hands of National Grid. We’re having a difficult time making that happen.”
Nearly a third of the town lost power. The number of affected Ayer customers apparently peaked Tuesday night with 1,098 customers in the dark. National Grid has 3,858 customers in Ayer. By Wednesday at 6 a.m., the number of Ayer customers still without power fell to 239.
On Wednesday morning, the tree that caused the outage on Oakridge Drive was still entangled in power lines.
“It frankly is unacceptable that there is no power there,” said Pontbriand. On Wednesday morning, National Grid projected the Oakridge Drive fix would occur Friday.
Fire Chief Robert Pedrazzi said Wednesday morning that the town’s overall damage was “not too bad.”
Though three roads were blocked off at the peak of the storm, and trees fell across town, “It could have been a lot worse,” said Pedrazzi.
Some recovery efforts were smaller in scale. On Tuesday, the skies were blue and the sun was shining. It was a perfect day to clear debris.
On Shaker Road, Don Crossman was out in short sleeves, neatly stacking downed tree limbs. But Crossman wasn’t working in his yard. Crossman was removing a tree, snapped at the base, in his neighbor’s front yard.
The tree fell, bending a flag pole in its path. Crossman noted that it may have been the tree’s time to go, since it appeared weak at the base, though cross sections of the limbs appeared to be full of life.
Crossman said he’d lost power for 4 to 5 hours during this storm. Being on the Ayer/Harvard town line, Crossman said he watched power flicker on and off through the leafless trees on both Ann Lee Road in Harvard and on Littleton Road in Ayer.
Crossman smiled as he worked, extolling the virtues of his neighbor and stating how happy he was to help out.
UPDATE: As of 10 a.m. on Wednesday, linesmen from Detroit have arrived at the intersection of Groton Harvard Road and Oakridge Drive to take down the fallen tree, replace and fix damaged poles, and restore power. The hope was to restore power to at least that part of town on Wednesday.