GREENFIELD, Mass. – More than 100 utility crews and about 50 tree removal teams fanned out across western Massachusetts on Thursday, restoring power and cleaning up after a series of powerful thunderstorms struck New England.

Tens of thousands of customers in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut lost power during the Wednesday night storms that prompted several communities to declare emergencies that kept schoolchildren at home Thursday.

Western Massachusetts Electric Co. reported on its website that more than 17,000 customers remained without power late Thursday afternoon, down from about 30,000 earlier in the day.

“Mother Nature threw us a curve ball,” said WMECO spokeswoman Lacey Ryan, who compared damage to a December 2008 ice storm that kept some people without electricity for several days.

Winds gusting up to 70 mph, 1-inch hail and lightning brought down trees and power lines and damaged utility poles just a day after record-setting high temperatures.

The towns of Greenfield, Amherst, Ware, Shelburne, Leverett, Bernardston, Gill, Montague and Colrain declared emergencies, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Gov. Deval Patrick toured storm damage Thursday in Turners Falls, a village of Montague. Virtually the entire village was without power after it was particularly hard hit by the storms, a spokesman for the governor said.

National Grid reported about 3,000 outages in Massachusetts. In Vermont, about 13,000 customers lost power, according to the state emergency management agency.

Lightning and downed tree limbs knocked out power to nearly 10,000 customers in Connecticut, but a Connecticut Light & Power spokeswoman said the goal was to have power restored by the end of the day Thursday.

In western New Hampshire, the storm knocked out power to about 7,500 Public Service Co. of New Hampshire customers, although most had their power restored Thursday morning.

Fire officials in Rindge, N.H. said a house fire may have been caused by lightning striking a satellite dish. No one was hurt in the blaze.


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