Punched and powerless; Storm cuts the cord for thousands.


Byline: Priyanka Dayal; Scott J. Croteau

A weakened but still vast Tropical Storm Irene pounded Massachusetts yesterday with powerful rains and raging winds. The storm flooded roads, felled trees and left more than 100,000 customers in Worcester County without power.

The swirling storm passed through the western part of the state and moved north last night. Blue skies are predicted for the rest of the week. But from the Carolinas to Central Massachusetts, the effects of Irene will to be felt for several days.

Though spared major damage inflicted on other areas, Worcester County experienced more power outages than any other county. About 102,000 National Grid customers in Worcester County were without power last night , including about 3,000 customers in Worcester.

Some towns - including Northboro, Southboro, Westboro, Dudley and Webster - were totally in the dark.

Irene's fierce winds downed trees and power lines in several communities. In Leicester, a police officer escaped injury when his cruiser was struck by a falling tree limb on Manville Street.

In Westboro, trees and branches littered several town roads, making the job for repair crews tougher.

"It appears that power will be off for an extended period of time," Police Chief Alan R. Gordon warned.

In northern Worcester County, served by Unitil Corp. of New Hampshire, about 2,700 customers were without electricity last night. Power to most customers will be restored by tonight, the utility said.

Unitil hired 300 crews from as far away as Illinois and Tennessee to respond to outages in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. As Irene raged on, crews restored power to thousands of customers yesterday, and they were scheduled to work through the night.

"There have been ongoing challenges with the rain and wind," Unitil spokesman Alec O'Meara said

Irene dumped 3 to 6 inches of rain on Central Massachusetts, according to meteorologist Bill Simpson at the National Weather Service in Taunton.

"It was pretty well forecasted," he said. "It played out exactly."

In a conference call with reporters, Gov. Deval L. Patrick said no injuries or fatalities were reported in Massachusetts.

But elsewhere, Irene was deadly. As it zipped up the East Coast, the storm resulted in at least 21 deaths, The Associated Press reported last night.

The storm caused flooding in parts of Worcester and several other communities, making some roads impassable.

Some Worcester roads were closed early in the day. Just after noontime, much of the flooding...

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