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VIOLENT thunderstorms lash Massachusetts for second day

Updated:
BOSTON (AP) _ Violent thunderstorms provided a weekend of wild weather in Massachusetts, knocking out electricity, snapping trees and bringing rain and hailstones up to an inch in diameter.

The storms Saturday and Sunday damaged homes from Greenfield in the northwest to Topsfield in the northeastern corner of the state, and unleashed lightning that sparked house fires. Natick firefighters answered a total of seven lightning strikes over the weekend.

A total of about 48,000 customers lost power across the state Sunday.

Wind gusts ranged from about 30 to 60 miles per hour, knocking down trees 3 feet in diameter on Main Street in the town of Orange. In Methuen, 1-inch hailstones were reported. In Fitchburg, more than 2 inches of rain fell in less than three hours Sunday afternoon.

The hardest-hit areas included Worcester, Middlesex and Essex counties, according to the National Weather Service.

National Grid, which includes Massachusetts Electric Co., Narragansett Electric Co., Granite State Electric Co. and Nantucket Electric Co., reported about 24,000 customers without power at the peak of the second storm, about 6 p.m. The majority were in central and southeastern Massachusetts and the Merrimack Valley, according to Amy Atwood, spokeswoman for the Grid.

As of 6 a.m. Monday, she said there were only about 900 customers still affected by scattered outages.

NStar reported 12,000 outages the peak, with less than 500 still without power by Monday morning.

Western Massachusetts Electric had about 12,000 customers without power at the peak of the storm, and about 175 still without power by 6 a.m. Monday.

Pittsfield and Springfield had the most outages, said WMECO spokeswoman Denise Vogel.

Lightning strikes on Sunday sparked a house fire in Stow, a barn fire in Essex and ignited a church steeple in Natick.

Natick Fire Chief Mike Slattery said firefighters doused the fire in the steeple of the St. Mary's Albanian Orthodox Church within about 20 minutes.

Sunday's storm moved off-coast by about 7:30 p.m., and the forecast for Monday throughout the state was sunny skies, breezy and highs in the 70s.

Strong winds Saturday left more than 40 homes in Millis damaged, according to Fire Chief Warren Champagne.

``We got real scared because it sounded like a loud whistle, then you just hear the (tree) trunks popping,'' said Myrna Rybczyk, 62, of Millis, whose kitchen roof was crushed by a falling tree. ``I had no idea what was coming.''

Lightning started a fire that burned out the second-floor office at Thayer Nursery Saturday night. The Milton Fire Department put out the fire around midnight, but not before an estimated $100,000 worth of damage was done.

Flooding and potential danger to spectators forced officials at the Tweeter Center in Mansfield to ask singer James Taylor to temporarily stop performing in the middle of his concert on Saturday.

The storms also affected two major sporting events in the state. The third round of the U.S. Senior Open at the Salem Country Club was called with 14 golfers still on the course. They continued on Sunday.

The San Jose Earthquakes vs. New England Revolution soccer game in Foxboro was postponed after the stadium lost power twice.

In Salem, N.H., lightning struck a transformer and knocked out power to part of the Rockingham Park racetrack, forcing track officials to cancel the last two races of the day.
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