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Talk of a twister as Florence blows through North Shore

A mid-morning tornado warning Tuesday sent students scurrying into school hallways and gymnasiums. But it was a microburst in Saugus — not a tornado — that felled trees and knocked out power to thousands of customers, according to the National Weather Service.

Prevailing forecasts early Tuesday for the remnants of Hurricane Florence, the deadly storm that struck North Carolina, called for heavy rain. But Tuesday’s 11:15 a.m. tornado warning triggered tornado protocols in several communities.

Saugus Town Manager Scott Crabtree said strong wind and heavy rain swept across town late Tuesday morning, knocking out power to most of the town, including schools, except for electricity customers in Cliftondale Square.

The National Weather Service released a statement at 5:24 p.m. Tuesday that concluded that “a microburst, or straight-line winds, was the cause of downed trees and tree limbs … The damage was not the result of a tornado.”

Crabtree said firefighters and other town employees determined the outage caused no threat to residents or structures and power to most of the town was restored. As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, the National Grid power outage map listed fewer than five Saugus customers without power.

Wind knocked down 20 to 35 trees and branches around town with much of the damage centered on Riverside Cemetery, where public works crews worked into Tuesday evening to clean up debris, Crabtree said.

In Swampscott, the schools initiated their tornado protocols after a National Weather Service tornado warning was issued just after 11 a.m.

“All schools were directed to go to their lowest point and shelter in place. Once schools were notified the warning was lifted at approximately 11:18 a.m., schools were directed to return to normal,” stated Maureen Caron, executive assistant to Swampscott Superintendent Pamela Angelakis.

Swampscott wasn’t the only community to shelter students after the tornado warning sounded on Tuesday.

Marblehead School Superintendent Dr. Maryann Perry said educators moved students away from windows into hallways and school gymnasiums.

“We recently purchased district-wide radios for all the administration and central office so we were able to communicate quickly and efficiently this morning,” Perry said.

The warning lasted roughly 15 minutes from when it was initially issued to when it was lifted, but Perry said Marblehead educators have plenty to learn from their response to the danger.

“We will review and make changes to our tornado protocols,” she said.

Lynn School Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler said city educators issued a “shelter in place” order with students moved away from windows until Lynn Fire Lt. Paul Ricchi gave the all clear order.

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