Thousands Without Power, Coastal Damage And Death From Powerful March Storm

Mar 2, 2018

A man has died in Newport after being hit by a falling tree during the powerful winter storm that lashed the region Friday. Robert Beaver, 72, was killed outside his home near Newport's storied mansions.

"A little after 3:18 [p.m.] we responded to a property on Ruggles Avenue where a male in his 70s had been hit by a tree that had fallen down, and he passed away," said Newport Police Sergent Danny Turmel.

Newport City Councilwoman Katheryn Leonard said she knew Beaver as a constituent and described him as an engaged member of the community. He sat on the city Planning Board for a time, and was a former leader of the Belleview Ochre Point Neighborhood Association.

Beaver was quoted by several newspapers, including The New York Times, as he fought to stop the construction of a visitor's center at the Breakers Mansion.

"He was dedicated and passionate about certain issues, whether people liked that or not," Leonard said. "He always took a stand, and he was very thoughtful about it."

Leonard said he appeared to be in good health and could often be seen walking his dog, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, near his home, nestled between the Breakers and Rosecliff Mansion.

National Grid Struggles To Restore Power Through Gusting Winds

More than 250,000 National Grid customers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts remained without power through the Friday evening commute, as wind gusts continued to buffet the area, making it difficult for utility crews to repair damaged power lines.

National Grid spokesman Tim Rondeau said it could take days to restore power to everyone.

"With gusts, we always want to remind the public that we can’t send our crews up in anything that’s going to endanger them," said Rondeau. "So we ask for patience in that sense."

Rondeau promised crews would work around the clock. Winds were expected to slow down somewhat, although gusts up to 45 miles an hour were forecast into the weekend.

"They’ll continue to work until everyone’s back up. It would be safe to say that the good amount of restoration will be underway after these winds die down."

Wind Gusts Top 80 MPH on Cape Cod

The National Weather Service expected winds to be at their peak until 7 p.m., and reported gusts that reached 83 miles per hour on Cape Cod. Wind gusts topped 70 miles per hour on Block Island, and T.F. Green Airport reported frequent gusts of at least 60 miles per hour on Friday afternoon.

Officials of the Port of New Bedford said they were keeping an eye on docked fishing vessels, even as the storm was expected to slowly wind down on Saturday.

"Our guys will be doing patrols on the commercial piers to make sure all the fishing boats are holding up well," Edward Anthes-Washburn, executive director of the Port of New Bedford, said.

Anthes-Washburn said boats need to be double-tied to the dock to stay secured. 

Many Rhode Island beaches were expected to be spared the worst of the flooding and coastal erosion, but southern Massachusetts was not so lucky.

"Absolutely some pretty significant beach erosion," said National Weather Service spokesman Bill Simpson of the conditions on Cape Cod. "And in the more vulnerable areas, in Marshfield, Scituate, south of Boston, there’s going to be some pretty significant house damage. We’re pretty sure of that."

Simpson expected some snow to mix in with the rain and wind Friday evening, making visibility difficult on the roads, but he said snow was not likely to accumulate on the ground.

Meteorologists said the storm would wind down slowly on Friday night and Saturday. 

Cranston Mayor: Pawtuxet River Is The Major Concern

Cranston Mayor Allan Fung said city workers are keeping a close watch on the Pawtuxet, which is expected to hit flood stage and keep rising into Sunday.

"The major concern is definitely the Pawtuxet River and the impact of the rains and high tide," Fung told RIPR. "It could reach that flood stage or beyond. So all the police and fire, all the public safety and beyond are really watching in those lower lying areas closer to the river."

Coastal flooding remained a smaller concern on Friday afternoon, although state emergency management personnel continued to watch beaches, especially in South County and Westerly.

Coastal flooding forecast map.
Credit The National Weather Service

"So we’re watching the 21 coastal communities for some minor flooding that’s forecasted, and then we’re watching inland flooding," said Peter Gaynor, Rhode Island's director of emergency management.

In addition to the Pawtuxet River in Cranston, Gaynor said the Wood and Pawcatuck Rivers in South County could also be at risk for flooding.

Gaynor urged travelers to be careful as high wind gusts made for dangerous driving.

For real-time weather-related closings and cancellations, click here.  

Wind Expected To Peak By Early Evening

As reports of power outages mounted, the National Weather Service said wind speeds were not expected to peak until late afternoon or early evening on Friday.

The good news was that coastal flooding had not become a significant problem despite higher than usual tides.

The Pawtuxet River in Cranston was still expected to flood, as the rain hit the midpoint on Friday afternoon.

A tree nearly missed falling on a house in East Greenwich
Credit Chuck Hinman

"We still got a ways to go," said National Weather Service spokesman, Bill Simpson, at the agency's Taunton office. "We had a little bit over an inch to an inch and a half and another inch and a half to go. So, we’re about in the middle as far as the rainfall amounts."

Simpson expected that some areas, including northwest Rhode Island, could see snow overnight and into Saturday morning.  

Power Outages Reported Across RI, MA

By early Friday afternoon, more than 25,000 National Grid customers had lost power in Rhode Island due to a nor'easter that brought rain and gusty winds. 

National Grid said the largest numbers of outages were in Providence and Washington Counties, but no area appeared untouched. East Providence alone had more than 3,000 customers without power, as wind continued to blow, and the overall number of outages continued to grow.

The utility was expecting to get the power back on by late afternoon or early evening, according to estimates on its website.

In Massachusetts, a little more than 4,000 customers in Bristol County had lost power. The hardest hit communities appeared to be Attleboro and Rehoboth.

National Grid said its crews prepared for the storm. And the utility was urging customers to report outages to local authorities or directly to National Grid.

Rain, Wind Go Away? Well, They're Here to Stay

According to The National Weather Service, the nor'easter hitting the East Coast will slowly move offshore over the weekend. However, Rhode Island and the South Coast may feel some lingering effects well into Sunday. 

Matt Doody, National Weather Service spokesman, said  the heaviest rain will fall during the day Friday.

"Then we're expecting a change over to snow late this afternoon and evening," said Doody.  "The winds will peak during the day today and there could be gusts as high as 60 to maybe even 70 miles per hour, especially close to the shoreline of Rhode Island."

Doody said those winds will die off Friday night, but will remain elevated, at about 30 to 40 miles per hour, well into the weekend.

On top of the heavy rain, the weather service warned of the possibility of some localized flooding. There is already a flood warning in effect for the Pawtuxet River in Cranston, but other rivers may flood as the water works its way through.

Doody said the risk for coastal flooding remains, mainly for the east facing beaches in Massachusetts.

For real-time weather-related closings and cancellations, click here.

This post has been updated.