By Robert Mills
WILMINGTON — Brian Crowley was at the gym yesterday afternoon when he got an urgent call from his live-in girlfriend, Maria Pelrine.
“Oh, my God,” she told him. “I don’t want to scare you. Just come home.”
Crowley, of 137 Nichols St., knew his girlfriend is not one to panic. She called 911 at 1:41 p.m.
“I knew she was serious,” Crowley said. “So I flew here as fast as I could to find police, fire, the power company and all my neighbors in a three-mile radius looking at my house that is now half destroyed.”
Crowley arrived to find his roof crushed by a roughly 2-foot-thick pine tree that snapped in yesterday’s high winds and landed on top of the home where he has lived for about five years with Pelrine and his dogs.
The tree that crushed Crowley’s home was one of many that fell yesterday as winds gusted up to 60 mph in some parts of the state, prompting the National Weather Service in Taunton to issue a wind advisory.
A car and a home were struck by trees in Newton and Worcester, according to reports taken by the National Weather Service. A spotter for the agency reported a 47-mph wind gust in Bedford at 12:18 p.m.
National Grid reported widespread power outages across the state over the course of the day, though most were small. About 1,000 people were without power in Middlesex County at 7 p.m. At 8 p.m., that number was down to 288.
Pelrine was still shaken yesterday evening.
When the tree fell, she was sitting on a couch about 10 feet away from where a branch penetrated the ceiling, stopping just 2 feet from the floor. That was one of three branches that penetrated the ceiling.
“If someone was there they were dead, there’s no doubt about it,” Crowley said of the spot where the branch came through the roof. “We’re lucky in that sense, but it’s hard to think of luck right now when you look at this.”
No one was hurt.
The impact left cracks in the ceiling in several rooms. It knocked the cover off a smoke detector and destroyed a fan in the bathroom.
Pelrine said the impact even made a dog gate in a doorway shoot across the kitchen.
“It shook the entire house,” Pelrine said of the impact. “It was like an earthquake.”
Crowley said he was going to stay in a barn behind the home last night. Pelrine was going to stay with family. Firefighters and the building inspector told Crowley the home could not be occupied.
A crane should arrive to remove the tree today, and Crowley is hoping to hear from his insurance company by then. Once the tree is removed, officials from the town and insurance company can begin to fully assess the damage.
He spent yesterday evening shutting off a leaking water pipe he found and taking inventory of the damage, including cracks in his ceiling and an outer wall of the home that was bowing outward.
Benjamin Sipprell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, said winds will still be kicking up this morning, with gusts of up to 35 mph in Greater Lowell. He said those winds should taper off by midday.
“We’ll still be seeing some pretty decent gusty winds into the morning hours,” he said.