A “bomb cyclone”—a meteorological phenomenon that describes a storm with plummeting atmospheric pressure—struck the Upper Cape late Wednesday night, October 16, and early, Thursday, October 17, bringing down trees, branches, poles and wires and cutting power to more than 36,000 Eversource customers.
There were more than 83,000 power outages across southeastern Massachusetts, the Eversource outage map indicated at noon Thursday.
Wind gusts up to 80 miles per hour and rains of more than two inches brought cancellations at the Falmouth Public Schools, Falmouth Academy and Sturgis Public Charter School in Hyannis.
Of the four Upper Cape Towns, Falmouth endured the most damage, with many impassable roads and detours, sources said. Falmouth Hospital was running on generators Thursday, as was Falmouth Town Hall, the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee said.
Falmouth District Court closed Thursday, as did several businesses on Main Street and across town.
Ferry traffic from Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard has also been strongly impacted, the Steamship Authority said.
All trips for the M/V Iyanough and some for the M/V Governor and M/V Katama were canceled Thursday. Additionally, Friday, October 18, is a reservation-only day with no standby travel on the Vineyard route, the Steamship Authority said.
The National Weather Service announced a high wind warning for the Cape until 6 PM Thursday, with southwest winds between 25 to 35 miles per hour and gusts between 50 and 60 miles per hour.
“This was a very significant rain and wind event, and the impact was widespread throughout our entire service area in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Connecticut,” Reid Lamberty, Eversource’s media contact for Eastern Massachusetts, said Thursday afternoon. “We planned ahead and had several hundred additional resources in the field to address the issues. Since the storm started we have restored over 100,000 customers. At 3 PM, there are still 65,000 without power in Massachusetts and we are working as quickly and as safely as possible to restore power to them.”
Director of Public Works Raymond A. Jack said Thursday afternoon that multiple DPW crews were out all over town working on downed trees and limbs to make the roads and sidewalks passable.
“We’ve been busy for quite a while. The high wind speeds slowed the Eversource response, so during the morning we weren’t able to accomplish much, but we were able to open Woods Hole Road. There is still a tree down on Davisville,” he said.
The storm coincided with high tide, and the DPW used front-end loaders to clear sand and debris from the beach roads at Menauhant and Surf Drive, Mr. Jack said.
“We cleared both this morning and started working to open sand-clogged inlets. The bright side is, it could have been worse,” he said.
Early Thursday morning, the Falmouth Police Department recommended on its Facebook page that the public delay or cancel their morning commutes until the DPW and the Massachusetts Highway Department could clear the roadways of all debris, especially in the downtown area and Woods Hole.
At that time, the police department said some of the road closures included Route 28 South at Palmer Avenue; Gifford Street and Amvets Avenue; Teaticket Highway and Sandwich Road north to the Cape Verdean Club; Quissett Avenue; Palmer Avenue in the area of Bridge, Shore and Locust streets; Main Street in front of Liam Maguire’s; Woods Hole Road; Surf Drive; Davisville Road; Oyster Pond Road; and in the area of Bristol Beach due to flooding and sand.
Access to Woods Hole was limited to emergency vehicles because of storm damage, starting at about 1 AM Thursday, Falmouth Deputy Fire Chief Timothy Smith said.
DPW removed a downed tree at the intersection of Mill Road and Woods Hole Road, the deputy chief said, adding that his department brought in additional personnel to cover a high number of emergency calls. These included live lines, arcing wires, small tree fires and fire alarms going off in buildings once power was restored.
Charles Orloff of Mashpee, executive director of the Blue Hill Observatory and Science Center, said this was a rare storm with an extreme, ear-popping pressure drop.
“With a bomb cyclone, you have a 30-millibar drop in 24 hours. This one had a 43-millibar drop in 24 hours. You very seldom see that. It just went bombing away,” he said.
The bomb cyclone, which had moved up the east coast, joined with a cold air system coming out of Canada.
“The low-level jet stream at about 5,000 feet became very strong, combined with heavy rain and dragged down the heavy winds from higher altitudes,” Mr. Orloff said. “I heard reports of 100-mile-per-hour gusts in Truro, but those were unofficial reports and totally bogus.”
More representative and reliable wind speeds came from the rooftop equipment at Menauhant Yacht Club in East Falmouth, which showed the highest gust to be 69 miles per hour, Mr. Orloff said.
“There were hurricane-force winds of 70 to 75 miles per hour on most parts of the Cape—80 at most—and based on the fact that it all occurred about the same time with a 10-minute spike or peak around 3 AM, the highest gusts might have lasted less than one to three seconds. It was that peak that brought down the branches and wires,” he said. “The National Weather Service is still reviewing the data.”
Also contributing to the strength of the storm and the resulting damage were the weight of leaves on branches as well as the suddenness of the winds, which were blowing east-northeast at the peak, Mr. Orloff said.
“We went from very little wind to tremendous wind. We also had two inches of rain from a storm less than a week ago, so the ground is now soft and very wet,” he said. “The center of the storm went a little bit west of us, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it went a little more southeast.”
At Blue Hills Observatory in Milton, meteorologists recorded the lowest atmospheric pressure in 134 years of keeping records in the month of October, and the readings were similar on Cape Cod, Mr. Orloff said.
“The pressure was 28.81 inches at Blue Hill, which was the same as at my house in Mashpee at 4 AM,” he said. “Normal pressure is 30 or 31 inches. It’s never below 29 inches.”
Friday’s weather foreacst is partly sunny, with a high near 58 degrees, a northwest wind 11 to 15 miles per hour and gusts as high as 25 miles per hour.