A late-season blizzard, the third major coastal storm of the season, plastered the Lower Cape with a layer of wet snow Tuesday.
While the snow was fluffy and dry in inland areas, the snow that fell on the Lower Cape coated tree limbs and power lines. That, coupled with winds that gusted 70 mph or higher, caused tens of thousands of people to lose electrical service.
Though they are making progress restoring power, Eversource is warning those without electricity to plan for the possibility of being without electricity for days.
In an email sent to Chatham customers, the utility indicated that winter weather has caused significant damage to the power grid. "This will slow restoration efforts, so we recommend that you plan for multiple days without power. Meanwhile, stay safe – if you see a downed power line, assume it is live, stay away and call 911. Visit Eversource.com for more information or to report an outage."
As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, all 8,473 customers in Chatham were without electricity, with another 10,219 in Harwich and 4,617 in Orleans. Cape-wide, nearly 120,000 people were without power. By Wednesday morning, the number of outages was up in Orleans to 5,499, but Harwich was down to 6,754. The number of Chathamites without power was down to less than one-third.
The Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee is operating a storm shelter at the Cape Cod Tech school in Pleasant Lake. Read more here. Schools remained closed Wednesday.
Nationwide, high school students planned to walk out of classes Wednesday at 10 a.m. to protest gun violence. Because school is canceled, students are invited to join the Lower Cape Indivisible group in stand-out demonstrations held around the region, including ones at Chatham Town Hall and at the Orleans rotary. For information, contact Roz Coleman at email@example.com.
Though initial forecasts called for the Cape to receive mostly rain with only an inch or two of slushy snow, by Monday morning it was clear that the storm would track further to the east, bringing more wintry weather to the Lower Cape. Crews from MassHighway and town DPW trucks attacked the snow as soon as it began falling, and major roads remained passable throughout the storm.
The exceptions were roads blocked by trees and other storm debris. Route 28 in West Harwich was blocked for a time near the Herring River because of downed utility poles. On Oak Road in Orleans, a utility pole snapped near the top, dropping the cross-arms and a transformer into the street below.
On Mill Creek Road in South Chatham, the top of a tall spruce tree broke away and landed on a car below; a tree branch also landed on a vehicle on Guilford Drive in Harwich. There were no injuries in either case.
There were no reports of signficant coastal flooding during the Tuesday mid-morning high tide, despite a predicted storm surge of between two and three feet and stiff northeasterly winds. There was some wave action in Chatham Harbor, but little damage, according to Harbormaster Stuart Smith.
“Everything was broken from the last storm,” he quipped.
A popular venue for sledding, Eastward Ho! Country Club, will be off limits to sledders for this storm only. A club spokesman said there are downed branches on the golf course, and a damaged utility pole in an area frequented by sledders. The club will continue to allow the practice in the future.
Monomoy Public Schools have canceled all classes and activities Wednesday.
Nauset Public Schools have canceled all classes and activities Wednesday.
Cape Tech has canceled Wednesday classes.
The Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School has canceled all classes Wednesday.
Chatham town offices and the transfer station will be closed Wednesday.
Brooks Free Library and all Harwich town offices will be closed on Wednesday.
The Monomoy Job Fair scheduled for Thursday has been postponed. A new date will be announced.
The Chatham Orpheum Theater will be closed Wednesday.