Popponesset Storm Damage

In a microburst July 23 in Popponesset, a tree fell on this house on Cordwood Road. Tornadoes and thunderstorms hit the Cape on the same day.

As three tornadoes, a microburst, high winds and thunderstorms struck the Cape last week, county officials, power companies, and regional and state authorities coordinated through a Multi-Agency Coordination Center set up by Barnstable County.

The MACC helped to coordinate resource requests from towns affected by the storm, respond to power outages, and set up shelters, said Sean O’Brien, director of the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment and Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for the county.

He said the center, which operated out of the Barnstable County Complex off Route 6A in Barnstable Village, included officials from Eversource, National Grid, Comcast, AT&T Wireless, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, and the Massachusetts Department of Conservation.

“We’ve had a lot of practice with this and it ran very smooth,” he said.

The operation was up and running by 12:15 PM on July 23, the day three tornadoes touched down in Harwich, Yarmouth, and West Yarmouth, Mr. O’Brien said.

He explained that one of the main purposes of the MACC is to “provide situational awareness” to all 15 Cape towns during an emergency situation, usually a storm.

When towns affected by an emergency request resources, the MACC looks to see if the assets are available on Cape before they request the resources from elsewhere, he said.

For example, when Mid-Cape towns—which were affected the most by last week’s weather events—requested dump trucks and front loaders, Mr. O’Brien said several towns offered resources, including Bourne and Sandwich.

The MACC also coordinates with power companies to resolve outages quickly—especially if outages affect critical areas such as hospitals or assisted living facilities.

“We were pretty lucky we did not see either hospital lose power,” Mr. O’Brien said.

“By Thursday afternoon, by the end of the max portion of this event, we had under 300 homes without power,” Mr. O’Brien told county commissioners on Wednesday.

Approximately 59,000 homes lost power due to the storms, winds, and tornadoes, he said.

“Eversource and the efforts that they took were absolutely amazing,” Mr. O’Brien said. “We had about 1,000 crews on Cape.”

As the MACC works to assess damages and coordinate between towns and agencies, it also works to set up shelters as they become needed.

One shelter was opened last week at the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School in Yarmouth with between two and four people staying at the facility overnight and others stopping in to charge phones and use power throughout the day.

“Almost immediately we started talking about the potential need for shelters,” said Andrew Platt, emergency preparedness specialist for Barnstable County.

“Within an hour of opening the MACC we had all of the resources and everything we would need to open the shelter,” Mr. Platt said.

The shelter was open by 7 PM on July 23 and remained open until 4:30 PM on July 25.

Diana Gaumond, director of the county’s Medical Reserve Corp., said that at the shelters “we were ready for health issues and fortunately there weren’t any.”

“There was just no way to know when the storm came and shelters opened what to expect,” she said.

County commissioners praised the response to the tornadoes and storms in their weekly meeting Wednesday.

“If you have emergency management plans in place and nothing happens for a couple years, it’s easy to let things slip away,” said Ronald Bergstrom, chairman of the county commissioners. “A run like this is in the long run good, because now you know you’re still up to speed, everyone is on board.”

Another commissioner, Mary (Pat) Flynn of Falmouth, said, “The big thing is not only do we have a plan, we have people that know what to do with the plan, and that’s more important.”

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