The residents along Orchard Street near the intersection of Common Street thought themselves quite fortunate when around noon Monday, Oct. 29 at the beginning of the gale force winds from Hurricane Sandy, a tall and large evergreen tree truck snapped near its base but missed landing onto neighboring houses or cars.
"We all went inside thinking how lucky we were. Then, at 3:30 p.m. we heard this 'boom'," said a local resident the next day.
Outside, a second large tree slammed into overhanging electrical and phone wires bringing the light pole crashing onto the street, creating a barrier of branches, trunk, poles and live wires across Orchard.
Eighteen hours later, as the sun began peeking out for the first time in two days, neighbors came to take photos and marvel that no one was hurt.
It was quite a stormy day Monday as most residents hunkered down during the height of Hurricane Sandy's rage, leaving the heavy work of repairing and removing the damage to town departments.
Peter Castanino, director of Belmont's Department of Public Works, said an entire compliment of 37 DPW employees spent the day and all through the night answering hundreds of calls for trees and large branches that were taken down due to the storm's 70 mph gusts. Several of the branches and trees fell onto roadways – one fell across the MBTA commuter rail track around 3 p.m. yet rail service was not impacted as the T suspended operations an hour earlier – causing isolated roadways to be effectively closed.
By this morning, Castanino reported that 52 "whole" town trees had come down in Belmont along with hundreds of branches. As of 2 p.m., Statler Road was the only town street still closed due to trees in the road.
One block of Orchard Street is also closed but that is due to a Belmont Municipal Light Department light pole and electrical wires.
More than a third of the falling trees landed on homes and by 2 p.m., the DPW had removed three with the rest expected to be cleared sometime by the end of the week.
In addition to trees, several roads, including Beech and Pleasant streets, flooded and were closed for a short time during the height of the storm in the late afternoon. But that condition occurs during most downpours, said Castanino, and it is "nothing continuous."
The Belmont Municipal Light Department reported 1,800 of its 10,000 customers were without power around 4 p.m. Monday due to wires taken down by trees and branches. Most of those residents had electricity restored within two hours. As of Tuesday afternoon, only a handful of homes did not have power, many of those due to wires being pulled out of the structures.
According to Leo Saidnawey, director of the Belmont Emergency Management Agency, the town's public safety and public works departments "just put our plans into effect and they worked."
Due to the impact of Hurricane Sandy, the DPW will be offering residents a one-time special brush collection for debris related to the storm.
Storm-related tree branches should be placed on the curb of the road before 7 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 5. After that time, the DPW will begin collecting storm related brush. The town asks residents to make sure that the brush is neatly bundled at the curb and is not blocking the sidewalk or street. No individual piece can be larger that six-inches in diameter. Anything larger than six-inches in diameter, including all tree stumps, will be the residents’ responsibility and will have to be picked up by a private contractor.
Call the DPW at 617-993-2680 with questions.