La Salette Shrine sustains damage during unexpected ‘downburst’

ATTLEBORO, Mass. — On Sunday evening, August 4, a concentrated patch of inclement weather — sometimes referred to as a “microburst” or “downburst” — touched down in the greater Attleboro area. 

The unexpected wind-driven storm had enough force to down several trees on the La Salette Shrine property off Park Street in Attleboro, causing some minor damage to buildings and some of the shrine’s well-known outdoor Christmas lighting displays.

Thankfully, the shrine events that day had already concluded.

“It probably happened about quarter of five (and) by 10 past five, it was over,” according to Father Ted Brown, M.S., director of La Salette Shrine.

“I counted about 10 trees down,” Father Brown told The Anchor. “I mean we’re talking big trees and branches.”

Much of the damage was centered around the Rosary Pond area, and Father Brown said that many of the shrine’s popular Christmas lights that remain installed year-round were destroyed.

“The ones on the big trees that are up high, they stay up all year,” Father Brown explained. “Over near the Rosary Pond area, there were a lot of lights that were damaged.”

Some of the large fallen branches also dented a few screens and air conditioner covers on the property, according to Father Brown, but nothing that is beyond repair.

“It will take a little work and reconfiguring of the lights, because now those trees are gone,” Father Brown said. “But it will probably push us to complete that area with the LEDs we’ve been installing. Those were a few of the last of the incandescent lights.”

At press time, Father Brown was in the process of filing an insurance claim for the damage and he doesn’t anticipate it will impact the Festival of Lights this year.

“There’s always something that happens when you’re trying to get the lights ready,” he said. “So you just kind of live with it.”

According to the National Weather Service in Norton, small sections of Attleboro, North Attleboro, Rehoboth and Dighton experienced the freak summer thunderstorm with “downbursts.”

A downburst is when a rush of air comes down and hits the ground and spreads out. Often the damage is so severe or extensive, it resembles damage from a tornado and can sometimes produce wind speeds in excess of 130 MPH.

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