BARNSTABLE, MASS. (WHDH) - Officials will need multiple days to restore power to the seven Cape communities whipped by a tornado that tore through the area with winds in excess of 80 mph Tuesday — and are opening a shelter for those displaced.

Speaking in Barnstable, Lt. Gov. Karen Polito said the tornado caused “significant damage” to the area and Eversource assessors on the ground are predicting a lengthy process to restore power. More than 90 percent of Harwich is without power and more than 52,000 power outages have been reported, Polito said.

“Initial feedback indicates a mass destruction of the distribution system,” Polito said, describing the wreckage as “hazardous.” “Based on the feedback, it will be a multi-day restoration.”

Polito said Brewster, Chatham, Dennis, Harwich, Mashpee, Orleans, and Yarmouth were affected, with Dennis, Harwich and Yarmouth being hardest-hit. The Dennis Yarmouth Regional High School at 210 Station Avenue, South Yarmouth will open as an emergency shelter at 7 p.m.

Eversources has 398 crews on the scene and their initial work will be to cut and clear downed trees to immediately address public safety concerns, Polito said. She urged residents to stay in place to let workers clear affected areas as quickly as possible.

“The faster that they can clear the roads and clear the trees, the faster they can get to resetting the poles and activating the lines,” Polito said.

In an online posting, the National Weather Service said it is “very confident” it confirmed a tornado touchdown in West Yarmouth, South Yarmouth, and Harwich, but teams were still determining if a single tornado touched down in each town and lifted again, or if there were two separate tornadoes.

(Copyright (c) 2023 Sunbeam Television. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Join our Newsletter for the latest news right to your inbox