Mass. coastal areas evacuateAP photo
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologists, Vasil Koleci, left, and Ingrid Amberger, right, monitor Hurricane Sandy on Monday at the NOAA weather facility in Albany, N.Y.
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Hurricane Sandy lashed Massachusetts with strong winds and heavy surf Monday, prompting evacuations in some coastal areas and leaving hundreds of thousands in the state without power.
Public transportation ground to a halt in the Boston area and flights out of Logan International Airport were few. Wind gusts of up to 75 mph were expected on Cape Cod and flooding was a concern along much of the state’s shoreline.
Gov. Deval Patrick said the state appeared to be holding its own against the storm, with no deaths or serious injuries reported.
“I think it’s going well. But it’s nature and it can change in a minute,” the governor said during an afternoon briefing at the state’s emergency management headquarters.
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, New Bedford, Lynn and Plum Island.
But most residents, like Tom and Lesley Chamberlain of Scituate, were reluctant to leave their seaside homes, even as the storm surge lapped at the base of a stair leading to their back door.
“The only thing that would make us leave is if the water got in the door,” Tom Chamberlain said.
A steady stream of onlookers went to Scituate Harbor during high tide at midday to see rough waves splashing over docks and boats rocking back and forth in fierce winds. Police blocked off several streets in the town about 30 miles south of Boston.
More than 270,000 customers in Massachusetts were without power by late afternoon, and the numbers were expected to climb as forecasts called for several more hours of punishing winds.
State officials said utilities that had been sharply criticized for their performances after two major storms last year were better prepared for this storm, with extra crews called in from other parts of the country to deal with the expected outages. Still, customers without power were told to be patient because many line crews would not be able to safely begin repairs until the worst of the storm subsided.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority shut down all subways, buses and commuter rail at 2 p.m. Richard Davey, the state Secretary of Transportation, said the MBTA gave several hours’ notice before ending service. He said he was not aware of any passengers being stranded at bus or subway stops.
At South Station, commuters stood in front of a train information board waiting to learn which tracks their rides home would be leaving on. But getting to the track was a challenge for some, as 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. This is the fourth time I lost my hat.”
Schools and state office buildings were closed on Monday.
At Quincy’s Wollaston Beach, waves were coming over the seawall. Some people tried to keep up with morning routines like dog-walking or jogging; most who gathered there came to watch the storm.
Eight-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.”
Shelters that opened around the state reported few takers, but the numbers were expected to grow with more outages and as nightfall approached.
Eleanor Grossman, 82, said she decided to go to the shelter in Weymouth after her mobile home began to sway from the fierce wind.
“I was frightened,” she said. “It was beginning to move.”
Logan airport remained open, but cancellations were mounting and ticket agents seemed to outnumber passengers in Terminal A.
“I was supposed to fly out today and head home, but Hurricane Sandy had other ideas for me,” said Shawn Hartman, 41, of San Antonio.
Hartman, a truck driver, dropped off a load of new trucks at a local dealership, then hopped a bus and train to get to Logan, only to find out his flight was canceled.
“I’m just resigned (to the wait),” he said. “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?”
Fishermen scrambled to secure their boats before the full fury of Sandy struck.
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 secure his fleet. Raphael said preparations began over the weekend for what’s predicted to be a particularly strong storm surge in New Bedford.
“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.”
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