2 Tornadoes Hit Cape Cod Tuesday, NWS Says, as Massive Cleanup Continues

Disaster cleanup crews are battling to open roads closed by downed trees and power lines

As cleanup continues on Cape Cod Tuesday from a powerful storm, the National Weather Service determined that two separate tornadoes had touched down, one of which began as a waterspout.

Both "high end EF-1 tornadoes" had a maximum wind speed of 110 mph, according to the NWS' damage summary.

One of the tornadoes began as a waterspout that moved onshore near Kalmus in Barnstable and traveled about 5.5 miles to South Yarmouth.

The other tornado touched down near Harwich and lifted about 2.75 miles away in East Harwich, though wind damage was still seen in nearby Chatham.

No injuries were reported with either storm, but thousands remain without power — likely for days — and the town of Harwich remains in a state of emergency as disaster cleanup crews battle to open roads closed by downed trees and power lines.

Hundreds of utility trucks were on hand doing disaster removal work, Gov. Charlie Baker said.

"It's very hard at this point to calculate how much debris and how much damage has been caused by this," Baker said after taking a tour of the damage Wednesday.

He and other officials said that, while the severe damage was largely limited to a roughly two-square-mile area, the severity had prevented emergency responders from reaching all of it.

The storm caused significant damage to wires, trees, homes and commercial properties across eight communities in Barnstable County, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency said in a statement.

Crews are working to clear roads of debris, secure downed power lines and support residents, MEMA said. Recovery operations are expected to last multiple days.

One fallen tree landed on Richard Bassett's cars at his home in Harwich. "Two Grand Marquees and they both have damage," he said.

Baker is considering declaring an emergency, but his office is still assessing the federal rules around it.

No deaths or injuries from the tornadoes have been reported so far, and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito told NBC10 Boston it was "a miracle there were no personal injuries."

She added that there was a lot of injury to property, and asked "that people on the Cape be respectful of the utility crews that have literally swarmed roads and the communities most impacted so that they can clear the debris, clear the downed limbs, clear the wires, bring safety to the communities and then get to the restoration needed to restore power," Polito said.

Countless trees were felled, causing traffic nightmares with road blockages and damages to local houses.

"It's like a giant came and stepped on them all," said Harwich resident Debbie Denton.

Power lines were snapped in half on Oak Street in Harwich, causing blackouts. Power has yet to be restored to all areas affected. There were 24,000 customers still without electricity Wednesday evening. But by 11:45 p.m., that number was down below 8,000, according to MEMA.

"It sounded like a giant was walking behind me," said Paige Riley of Harwich. "Everything was crunching."

Power is expected to be fully restored by 6 p.m. Friday in Harwich and Yarmouth, Eversource said. Full restoration is expected by 4 p.m. Thursday in Orleans and Brewster, 8 p.m. Thursday in Mashpee and Dennis and 4 p.m. Friday in Barnstable and Chatham.

Baker said that he is working to get more resources on the ground. 

The tornadoes struck during the peak of summer vacation season, forcing many people to hide out in rented homes or hotels, waiting for the intense storm to pass, which it did in about an hour.

The roof of one hotel, the Cape Sands Inn in West Yarmouth, peeled off during the storm. The motel was condemned by building inspectors, and guests were relocated to other hotels.

"This is the heart of our tourism season. Most of our communities, we make our lives out of people coming and spending their time," said the area's state senator, Julian Cyr.

And while he said this was the worst storm damage since Hurricane Bob, which hit the Cape in 1991, he stressed that the damage was confined to a small area.

"Broadly, the Cape is open for business," Cyr said, noting that most communities have not been impacted.

He said that anyone with plans in Yarmouth, Dennis, Harwich and Chatham should check in, but that other areas were likely still able to accommodate tourists.

The tornado was the fourth confirmed event on Cape Cod, the second in as many years following a tornado in Woods Hole on Oct. 29, 2018. Prior to that event, a tornado hadn't been confirmed on the Cape since 1977.

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