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Thousands without power, schools closed as storm rips through RI

  • Oct 27, 2021
Providence Journal

Some Rhode Islanders could be without power for days after a nor'easter battered the region Wednesday morning with winds that gusted above 70 mph.

Nearly 100,000 National Grid customers were without power shortly after sunrise Wednesday. That number was down to just over 50,000 by 5 p.m.

More: Storm to bring heavy rain, strong wind, could cause flooding, knock out power

"We have crews deployed and are trying to get work done if the conditions are deemed safe," National Grid spokesman Ted Kresse said in an email Wednesday morning, "but we're still seeing some significant winds that are presenting challenges and creating more outages."

The outages were spread throughout the state, with the highest numbers in Kent and Washington counties.

The National Weather Service reports that wind gusted as high as 94 mph in Edgartown on Martha's Vineyard at 4:30 a.m.

Locally, wind gusts of 74 mph were reported on Block Island, 73 mph at the University of Rhode Island, and 70 mph in Bristol Harbor.

Rick Fay, who lives on Greenwood Avenue in Warwick, was up making coffee at 6:30 a.m. when he heard "a crack and rumble," he said.

It was the massive maple tree at the edge of his property, crashing to the ground. The tree, which measured about 70 feet, knocked over a fence and broke a gutter on his house, but luckily didn't hit any power lines.

The tree has been leaning at a precarious angle for some time, Fay said, and he'd intended to ask the city of Warwick to take a look and see if anything could be done.

"I figured it was going to go at some point," Fay said. "I've been worried about it for a long time."

In Johnston, a 50-foot tree in Louis Spremulli's backyard fell down overnight, landing in his neighbor's backyard and knocking down a fence between their properties.

"He called me and said, 'Louis, you'd better come out here,'" Spremulli said. "And I said, 'Holy god.' We couldn't believe how big it was."

The uprooted base of the tree was even taller than Spremulli, who is 5'9". Before the storm, the tree was fairly healthy, he said, "so some big wind must have hit it."

The nor'easter qualified as a bomb cyclone because it strengthened so quickly, according to the Weather Service. In a tweet Wednesday morning, the Weather Service noted that the storm underwent "bombogenesis" when the barometric pressure on Nantucket dropped from 1008 millibars to 980 in less than 24 hours. The criteria for a bomb cyclone is a pressure drop of 24 millibars or more in 24 hours.

The last bomb cyclone in the area was Oct. 17, 2019.

The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority closed the Newport Pell and Jamestown Verrazzano Bridges shortly after 6 a.m.; the authority closes bridges when sustained wind speeds exceed 70 mph for a continuous period of 15 minutes or more, or when wind gusts persistently exceed 70 mph over a period of 15 minutes. It later reopened the bridges to all but high-profile vehicles before fully reopening them early in the afternoon.

The University of Rhode Island canceled all classes that were scheduled to start before noon. Many public K-12 schools across the state were closed or on distance learning.

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