Much to the relief of residents on Oakridge Drive, linesmen on loan to National Grid from Detroit have arrived on Groton Harvard Road to replace downed and
Much to the relief of residents on Oakridge Drive, linesmen on loan to National Grid from Detroit have arrived on Groton Harvard Road to replace downed and snapped poles and restore power to that neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Ayer Fire Dept. Lt. Timothy Shea)

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. Flooding was also experienced on the Ayer rotary.

School closed on Monday and Tuesday for the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District, but school resumed on Wednesday - Halloween. The town's Halloween trick-or-treating hours remained as scheduled - Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m.

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.

This is the tree that fell Monday afternoon and knocked out power for Oakridge Drive in Ayer.
This is the tree that fell Monday afternoon and knocked out power for Oakridge Drive in Ayer. (Photo courtesy of Ayer DPW Highway Foreman Doug Jaspersen)
At Tuesday's selectmen's 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."

Chair Jim Fay suggested "shade trees are under our purview" if they're near sidewalks.


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DPW Superintendent Mark Wetzel said the power company also has latitude on de-limbing and removing trees.

"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."

Fay promised an update on the request at the board's Nov. 13 meeting.

Don Crossman was more than happy to help his neighbor on Shaker Road clear a fallen tree, snapped off at its base.
Don Crossman was more than happy to help his neighbor on Shaker Road clear a fallen tree, snapped off at its base. (Nashoba Publishing/Mary Arata)

Regarding the electricity restoration rate, Ayer 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 - nearly two days after it fell - the tree that caused the outage on Oakridge Drive was still entangled in power lines. The road was remained closed to through traffic Wednesday morning.

"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, Nov. 2.

Ayer Fire Chief Robert Pedrazzi, who is the town's emergency preparedness director, said on Wednesday morning that the town's overall damage was "surprisingly not too bad."

"We had several calls for detectors going off when people lost power and the batteries in their detectors were dead," said Pedrazzi. "I added a couple of men to the shift to help out with the extra calls and they were able to take care of everything."

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, the sun was shining. It was a perfect day to clear debris caused by Hurricane Sandy.

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 4-5 hours during this storm.

Flagg Tree Service of Ayer was busy Tuesday, clearing downed trees felled by Hurricane Sandy.
Flagg Tree Service of Ayer was busy Tuesday, clearing downed trees felled by Hurricane Sandy. (Nashoba Publishing/Mary Arata)
  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 through the trees, 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 is to restore power to at least that part of town today. - M. Arata

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