‘Strong microburst’ causes major damage

Near-100 mph winds rip trees, blocking roads in Nashoba Valley

Don Black, of Groton, stands next to the roof of the Pavillion that was lifted off its foundation late Friday at Groton’s DPW/recycling/recreational facility off Cow Pond Road.
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GROTON — Town officials are still cleaning up knocked-down trees from residential streets after a storm raged through the Nashoba Valley area last week.

Glenn Field, a warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said on Monday that the NWS is “90%” certain that a “strong microburst” of wind with thunder, lightning and heavy rain took place around 8 p.m. Friday in multiple towns. Winds were reported to be between 80 to 100 mph in Groton, Pepperell and Westford. Field said the more accurate term to describe what happened is a downburst, which is an incredibly strong down draft of sinking air hitting the ground and spreading. The determination of said burst being either a microburst or a macroburst is, according to Field, dependent on the size of the damage caused from the wind.

Many trees were uprooted and torn down Friday evening near Groton’s DPW/recycling/recreational facility. This is the scene at the intersection of Cow Pond Brook Road and Hoyts Wharf Road.

“The conclusion up until now is that it was a strong microburst of straight line wind, not a tornado,” he added. “It lasted about two minutes, the whole wind system was moving very quickly. It was a pretty formidable line of storms.”

Kevin Kelly, manager of the Groton Electric Light Department, said power outages in town started to be reported in West Groton and the center of town around 8:17 p.m. last Friday. By 8:25, about 1,600 customers reported outages. Kelly said “most” of the residents who reported outages had power returned two hours later, while department staffers continued to work through the night into the early hours of the morning.

“We had crews from Danvers, Middleton, Groveland and Littleton here by 9:00 Saturday morning,” Kelly added. “Saturday, we had 20 guys working until about 8:00 when we sent them to get some sleep. Over the day on Saturday, we got about 140 customers back, ending the day restoring power to Martins Pond Road and Cow Pond Brook.”

Trees were uprooted and recycling storage facilities were badly damaged at Groton’s DPW/recycling/recreational facility off Cow Pond Road Friday.

One location near Cow Pond Brook that suffered major damage from the storm was the Groton Highway Transfer Station, across the street from the Cow Pond Playing Fields. Troy Conley, a foreman for the Groton Department of Public Works, said he and staff were notified of the storm on Friday night by an employee working in the highway garage when the wind picked up. With the garage door open at the time, the wind was so fierce that it not only shook the entire building but also blew one of the windows out, leaving shards of glass outside the garage. The storm also ripped a piece of the steel side off the transfer station and tore the heavy tarp covering the property’s bale building off of the structure, not to mention the collection of trees ripped out from the ground and leaning on fences.

Conley said the department is focused on clearing the roads of the numerous trees and power lines in eastern Groton that were also knocked down during Friday’s microburst. He explained that the department collected “at least 200 loads” of fallen trees since Friday and there are still houses without power.

“In the 34 years that I’ve been in town, I’ve never seen a storm this bad,” Conley said. “It’s worse than any ice storm.”