Thousand-mile hurricane a bust for Melrose

... emergency crews ready, city escapes serious damage

by Don Norris in an interview with Mayor Rob Dolan

The thousand-mile-wide hurricane that devastated a large part of the East Coast on Monday, October 29th went through Melrose in some four hours, knocked down 60 big trees, ripped power lines from 386 homes, and went on its way westward. It was, almost, a bust, a non-happening in the history of hurricanes.

Best of all, there were no injuries reported. There was minimal flooding, relatively little damage from blow-downs, and all but four homes had their power restored within three days. Schools had been closed for one day, reopening almost on schedule Tuesday morning, and the school's physical plant suffered only negligible damage.

The Stringers chatted with Mayor Rob Dolan on Thursday morning, three days after the storm hit New England. By that time, most of the blow-downs had been removed, the flooding was history, and the town was operating as it has for the past 162 years.

Mayor Dolan gave National Grid -- our electric supply group -- an 'outstanding' award for not only being totally primed for the storm, but active throughout those hazardous hours last Monday. He said pretty much the same about our own Public Works people, especially those who caught 'storm-duty' on Monday as well as during the subsequent clean-up.

He was also happy to report that the flooding -- a plague in Melrose over the past few hundred years -- was almost a non-happening, since the infrastructure of the city's drainage and sewer systems has been rebuilt over the past few years. It worked flawlessly, he said. As soon as water began to collect in low areas -- the Parkway and Trenton Streets -- the new system kicked in, literally pushing the flood waters south through the underground tunnels. Even the swollen waters of Ell Pond were immediately drawn off.

The system was again put to trial on Tuesday evening when yet another storm dumped heavy rains on the area. At about seven that evening, cars crept through chassis-deep water, just as the new drainage system kicked in. Again, the ground water was gone in a relatively short time, eliminating a situation that has plagued the city for years and years.

Eight trees were blown onto local homes, minimally damaging houses in an area of Batchelder Street and Lincoln Street. No one was hospitalized, there was no flash-flooding -- as has happened in recent memories. The city DPW had four tree-crews out during the storm, and another ten people cleaning out catch basins, while the fire department dealt with the numerous cases of downed power lines.

The trash pick-up went on as usual on Monday morning, laid off when the heavy rain and winds hit the town, around 1 p.m., and resumed on Tuesday morning -- in the rain.

In the aftermath, the DPW yards will remain open for residents cleaning up downed branches and debris.

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