A nor'easter that slammed New England knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts Wednesday, and it could take days before it's restored, officials said.
Gov. Charlie Baker said it would likely be "a multi-day process" as he discussed his administration's response in Scituate, in the heart of Massachusetts' hard-hit South Shore region. But damage, including trees falling into houses and across streets, was visible all the way into downtown Boston.
Most of the communities in the South Shore had more than 75% of customers without power Wednesday afternoon, according to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. Overall, 372,190 people statewide were without power as of 11:59 p.m., down from just under half a million earlier in the day; at one point 14 towns were entirely without power.
Baker said late Wednesday night on Twitter that he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito will continue to coordinate with local and state officials while work is ongoing to restore power in impacted communities.
Some schools announced closures for Thursday, after dozens were closed Wednesday. (See a list of school closures here.)
And there would be impacts to at least some commuters Thursday, too -- the MBTA said ferry service to Hingham was suspended for that day so repairs could be made to the town's dock. Hull ferry service was slated to continue, however.
Complicating the clean-up efforts in the South Shore and on the Cape were sustained high winds up to 65 mph, expected to continue through Wednesday evening in southeastern Massachusetts. The lifts that utility workers use to work on power lines can't be safely operated if sustained winds are above 30 mph, officials said.
"In some cases they do need to wait until the winds come down before it's really going to be safe to get up into a bucket truck," Baker said.
With no end in sight to the power outages, some people were lining up at a gas station in Scituate Wednesday, wanting to make sure their generators were able to run uninterrupted.
In Sandwich on Cape Cod, people said they'd been driving for at least half an hour to find an open gas station, either for their cars or to power personal generators.
"A lot of places closed," Sandwich resident Peter Buckler said. "Nobody's got power."
At the news conference in Scituate, Baker was asked about people lining up for gasoline. He said none of the officials in his administration anticipated any reason why gas stations would be out of fuel for long, and said there was no reason to panic.
"We're talking about something that's going to take a few days to clean up," he said, not many days, though he urged people who may not have to fill their tanks up to consider only filling them halfway or three-quarters of the way.
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He also echoed administration officials' warnings: assume all downed wires are live and be careful when driving for power crews: "There are going to be a ton of crews out there."
Utility workers had been brought in from as far away as Canada, and more were expected to arrive into Thursday to help the cleanup, officials said. Eversource alone expected to have 1,500 crews working to restore power by Thursday.
Christopher Besse, a MEMA spokesman, had told NBC10 Boston earlier Wednesday that, along with high winds, crews need to survey storm damage before they can come up with a plan to fix it.
"If people are without power, there's a good chance they'll be without power through this evening," he said.
As people looked to make plans to deal with power outages, a Red Cross shelter was opened at Weymouth High School. The agency said it was offering help to anyone whose home was damaged -- its 24-hour hotline is 1-800-564-1234.
The strongest wind gust reported Wednesday was 97 mph on Provincetown, and Scituate saw upwards of 85 mph. The wind drove waves above 30 feet off of Gloucester -- Baker said he'd been told that storm surge would have been much worse if the nor'easter arrived at high tide.
People whose homes were damaged by falling trees or the wind said it sounded like a bomb hit.
"When I saw the tree limbs outside my window after the bang, I just was shaking," said Denise Fallon, who was sleeping in a Duxbury home when a tree crashed into it.
Duxbury Deputy Fire Chief Rob Reardon said the town was hit hard by the nor'easter. They were using a map to mark blocked streets, and it was covered in red tick marks Wednesday afternoon.
On a normal day, the department handles six to 10 emergency calls, but in Wednesday's storm, they received 150.
"I have done storms here for years, and I honestly think this is one of the most destructive we have seen," Reardon said.