WEYMOUTH (AP) — The hybrid storm Sandy hammered Massachusetts with fierce winds and heavy surf, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands and forcing evacuations in the coastal communities that absorbed the worst of the mammoth storm.
Photos: Sandy Hits Massachusetts
Officials had shut down Boston’s public transportation by early afternoon Monday, while flights were grounded and schools and municipal buildings closed down statewide.
Eleanor Grossman, 82, decided to spend the night at a Red Cross shelter set up at Weymouth High School after wind shook her mobile home so violently, it began to sway.
“I was frightened. It was beginning to move,” she said. “I would have rather stayed in my home, but it didn’t look good.”
Power outages peaked around 400,000 after the winds gusts peaked Monday night.
State officials said utilities were better prepared for Sandy after they were sharply criticized for prolonged outages following two major storms last year. But Marcy Reed, president of National Grid Massachusetts, urged residents to be patient, saying workers can’t fix the wires in heavy gusts.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered in low-lying sections of Dartmouth and Fall River in the southeastern part of the state, while voluntary evacuations were suggested in other coastal communities including parts of Scituate, Lynn, New Bedford and Plum Island.
In New Bedford, fishing boat owner Carlos Rafael, who owns 48 scalloping and groundfish vessels, said he was soaking wet Monday after he and his crews worked to tie down his boats as securely as possible.
“That’s all I can do, there’s nothing I can do,” he said. “After that, just keep praying that it doesn’t get too crazy. … I’m going to have to be on standby on this one, just in case we get some nightmare.”
The storm was an attraction for some, drawing a steady stream of onlookers to Scituate Harbor during high tide at midday to see rough waves battering boats and splashing over docks in the town about 30 miles south of Boston.
At Quincy’s Wollaston Beach, 8-year-old Emma Chenette, of Braintree, yelped for joy as waves hit her on the sidewalk as she ran back and forth in the froth.
“It’s horrible,” she said with a smile. “I like the water, but it just comes flying at me.”
The wind was no lark on Boston’s Tobin Bridge, where officials shut down the top deck Monday night until the winds subsided.
In Pittsfield, a mother pulled her sleeping toddler out of her crib just before a tree crashed into her bedroom. The Berkshire Eagle reports that Kim Esposito’s neighbor, Sue Clark, warned Esposito after she stepped outside and saw the tree swaying in the high wind.
“I don’t even want to think what would have happened if she was still in her crib,” Esposito said.
At South Station, an alley of wind developed between the building and the outdoor commuter rail train platform with gusts that knocked some people off their feet.
Zachary Ryan, 19, of Bellingham, was there to catch the last train home after coming to Boston to visit a friend. The two helped others who were struggling against the wind.
“That guy took a spill,” said Ryan, pointing to a man who fell. “That was madness. He just went flying.”
Logan International Airport remained open, but most flights were canceled, including Shawn Hartman’s flight back to Texas, where the truck driver was headed after dropping a load of trucks near Boston. The earliest he could leave was Wednesday, but Hartman, was resigned to the wait.
“They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do to keep everybody safe. I’d rather be here on the ground than, going down, you know?” he said.
“I’ll get some good seafood in me,” he added.
Associated Press writers Jay Lindsay and Mark Pratt in Boston, Bob Salsberg in Framingham and Bridget Murphy in Quincy contributed to this report.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.