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    Storm downed trees, trapped families at home without power

    September 15, 2023 - Monica Sager, Andover Townsman, Mass.


      Sep. 14—ANDOVER — Diane D'Angelo of 26 High Vale Lane has lived in town for almost 50 years and yet she never saw anything like the storm on Friday.

      "This street just got annihilated," D'Angelo said. "It was insane ... . It just came in sideways from across the river."

      The house where D'Angelo and her partner, Cathy Burgess, live was among the thousands of area homes and businesses left without electricity and surrounded by debris following the powerful storm.

      Andover appears to have suffered the brunt of the damage, with Town Manager Andrew Flanagan advising residents on Friday that the impact could linger into the coming week.

      And linger it has for D'Angelo and Burgess, along with their neighbors.

      Access to four houses on High Vale Lane and River Park Terrace was blocked off, leaving three families without power and confining them to their homes unless they were to trek through the woods.

      "It's not so much just one downed branch," Burgess said. "This whole place was annihilated."

      One of the families, the Schrimpfs, had their house moved slightly off its foundation due to the strong wind, according to D'Angelo.

      "National Grid was doing what they could," Burgess said. "They worked Saturday into the night but they worked up until the utility pole and left."

      Eric George of National Grid, who arrived about noon Monday, said there was no estimate when the Schrimpfs and the other two families could expect to have their power restored.

      A team was working to clear the downed trees.

      "The workers did what they were told to do," Burgess said. "But picture that the workers are told to clear up to the seventh floor and you're on the ninth floor. It's like do I wait for a rescuer to come get me? That's what it was like."

      Burgess acknowledged that the workers, who came from Connecticut and New York, were just following instructions. But she said if they saw other trees down and had the equipment to remove them, at least some assistance would have been helpful.

      When the storm began Friday, D'Angelo said she was driving her BMW home when winds of about 60 mph rocked her car. By the time D'Angelo made it home, she said the hail was pelting her car.

      "The wind was so strong," D'Angelo said, "it actually blew our front door open."

      The power was out, and then D'Angelo said she started to hear what seemingly was tree after tree fall along High Vale Lane.

      "It sounded just like a forest coming down completely," D'Angelo said.

      A tree right outside D'Angelo and Burgess' home just snapped, with half of it landing in the couple's field.

      At that point, D'Angelo saw that her neighbor's car was trapped beneath a tree. The neighbor and a child were in the car, and D'Angelo said she "ended up dragging a huge tree limb" so they could leave the vehicle safely and move the car.

      "Another tree essentially fell right behind my back, missing me, so I ran into the neighbor's driveway to avoid that," D'Angelo said. She showing photos of downed wires and tree trunks piling up like Lincoln Logs with one on top of another and stretching the width of the road.

      D'Angelo, Burgess and some of their neighbors had chainsaws and were able to cut up some of the fallen trees, but the trees still remain on the streets and in their yards. It took upward of 12 hours.

      "We just went house to house to house assessing what people need," D'Angelo said.

      The homes in that area come under the jurisdiction of the town's historic commission. That means the houses must meet certain requirements to preserve their historic integrity in case of any repairs or additions.

      As trees lay on a nearby a hill and in yards, D'Angelo and Burgess noted they are worried that future storms could cause significant damage.

      D'Angelo said her insurance company told her "it's nature and talk to the town," but the town, she said, is not doing anything. She does not know if the plan is to clear the debris away from fire hydrants or if the neighbors have to do it themselves.

      The neighbors arranged to park their cars at a church on High Vale Lane so that the families who are stuck and cannot move their own vehicles would still have access.

      D'Angelo said the groups have been walking through the woods with cases of bottled water for those in the affected homes. Burgess called it a job not even fit for an Eagle Scout, let alone an elderly couple.

      D'Angelo and Burgess had their electricity restored late Sunday evening. The three families still did not have power. There was no word when the trees and debris would be cleared.

      "From a town perspective, we just need a better understanding of what happens," D'Angelo said. "We're just missing that part."

      Follow Monica on Twitter at @MonicaSager3

      Follow Monica on Twitter at @MonicaSager3


      (c)2023 the Andover Townsman (Andover, Mass.)

      Visit the Andover Townsman (Andover, Mass.) at

      Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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