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New England spared flooding as Sandy clean-up begins

Mike Starkie sweeps mud out of his garage as he cleans up from Hurricane Sandy in Fairhaven, Massachusetts October 30, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica
Mike Starkie sweeps mud out of his garage as he cleans up from Hurricane Sandy in Fairhaven, Massachusetts October 30, 2012. REUTERS/Jessica

By Scott Malone

NEW BEDFORD, Massachusetts (Reuters) - Residents of the coastal areas of Massachusetts and Rhode Island ventured out on Tuesday to clear up the wreckage caused by powerful storm Sandy, which flattened trees, damaged homes and left hundreds of thousands in the region without power.

Unlike in the greater New York area, where Sandy brought rising seas that flooded Manhattan and parts of the New Jersey shore, New England's misery came mostly from the storm's heavy winds.

In the former whaling community of New Bedford along Massachusetts' southern coast, streets were littered with debris and more than 250,000 customers were still in the dark due to downed power lines.

"It was frightening when the storm picked up, you could really feel the winds," said Janet Freedman, a 72-year-old academic, as she surveyed a massive tree that had fallen in front of her home. "We used to have three beautiful trees, now we have one and a half."

The decades-old tree fell into another tree on her property on Monday afternoon, damaging her car and knocking out the electricity, but sparing the house where her husband was inside recuperating from an injury.

"I can't bear to think about what would have happened if the other tree weren't there," Freedman said.

Her neighbor, Gil Perry, a stockbroker, said he had been more worried about rising waves from Buzzards Bay, a few hundred feet from his home.

"The water got higher than I'd ever seen before," said Perry, 65, who has lived in the town for decades. "I'm glad we didn't get flooding."

Jim Thurston, a 36-year-old electrician in Tiveton, Rhode Island, stood in front of his home contemplating a tree with a roughly 18-inch-thick (45-cm-thick) trunk that fell during the storm, knocking out power to his home and neighbors.

"It was kind of exciting when the winds started gusting and the trees started going down," Thurston said. "I guess we're lucky nothing hit the house."

Local landmarks hit by the storm included a boat house at the Hyannis Yacht Club, where the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy had often moored his racing sailboat Mya. The structure was washed into the harbor by the storm's wind and waves.

Sandy made landfall farther south in New Jersey on Monday night, causing widespread flooding in the state and neighboring New York. At least 30 people were reported killed along the eastern seaboard.

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said he was grateful that the storm's damage had not been worse.

"There is a roof here, siding there ... but no place where there is devastation," Patrick told reporters at the state's emergency command center in Framingham.

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee toured hard-hit coastal areas of his state.

Heavy equipment is being moved into affected areas to help clean up the debris, said Annemarie Beardsworth, a spokeswoman for the state's emergency management agency.

(Additional reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss in Providence, Rhode Island; Editing by Paul Simao)

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