By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff
The people of Massachusetts face relatively predictable weather. The biggest snowstorms typically take place between mid-January to March. Evening thunderstorms and torrential downpours are a usual part of the summer months. Hurricanes occasionally crawl their way up to the Northeast but meteorologists know weeks in advance. But tornadoes tend to stay out of the New England weather equation. However, on July 23rd, Cape Codders and visitors were shocked when they witnessed the first tornadoes whip through Barnstable County in years.
Though EF1 is the lowest rank of tornado, the Cape was relatively unprepared for the storms. Gusts of wind reached up to 110 miles per hour, ripping not only trees and wires down, but also the roof of the Cape Sands Inn in West Yarmouth. With live wires and trees on the ground, and streets clogged with debris, residents were left without electricity, stranded, and, in some cases, with no way to leave their houses.
The local department of public works became responsible for getting the affected areas back up and running as quickly as possible. But with so much damage and so many roadblocks, it was necessary for other DPWs to step in and help with the cleanup.
Members of Westwood DPW were among those who took a short trip to the Cape to help.
Brothers Nick and Billy Troiano, Matt McDonald, Peter Bersani, Bob Collins, and Billy Abely spent two days cleaning up the Cape. They focused their efforts on Harwich, which sustained the most significant amount of damage.
The day after the storm, APW alerted the Westwood DPW that help may be needed down the Cape. A few communities had reached out to APW, indicating that they required mutual aid. The Westwood DPW then contacted Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to volunteer aid for trapped communities. The following day, MEMA called for six individuals, tree clippers, and a bucket truck.
The group wasn’t completely shocked at what they saw upon their arrival. Director Todd Korchin of the Westwood DPW went to the Cape with fellow workers on the Monday morning following the storm. He recalled the things he and his team are used to seeing: trees down, debris pushed off roads and clogging up sidewalks, and general storm damage. Korchin noted one noticeable difference between normal storms that the Westwood DPW often deal with and this one: the complete entanglement of tree limbs.
“To get even one through the chipper was a task,” he observed.
Though battling to get the tree branches into the chipper was difficult, the biggest challenge was their inexperience with the Harwich area. Though these DPW workers know Westwood like the backs of their hands, Harwich had them turned around. As volunteers made progress in cleaning up the town, more roads opened up that had not been clear before.
The Westwood DPW helped get the job done, returned home, and resumed its normal routine.
“They pulled together and they did the best job of doing it,” said Korchin.
It is because of these unsung heroes that people around the Cape were able to continue their vacations and pick up whatever the storm had interrupted.