Many Mass. Residents Still In The Dark

By WGBH News & Wires

Nov. 1, 2011

foxboro storm damage

This tree came down in the October 29 storm — and took many Foxboro residents' power with it. (Jaclyn Cashman/WGBH)

BOSTON — Though the snow has been melting, more than 350,000 Bay State homes and businesses remained without power Tuesday morning after the historic nor’easter on October 29.

Whose Customers Are Still in the Dark?

Company Total customers # without power Twitter
National Grid 1.2+ million 228,000 @nationalgridus
Unitil 28,000 9,000 @unitil
Western Mass. Electric 212,000 93,000 @wmeco
NStar 1.1 million (electric) 28,000 @NStar_News

Updated Nov. 1, 9:00 a.m. Figures are approximate. Information taken from The Associated Press and company websites.

Some customers might need to wait until Friday for their power to come back on. An October 31 update from National Grid put the estimated time of power restoration at 11:45 p.m. on November 4 for a number of towns, including Clinton, Ayer, Sturbridge and Leominster. In several towns, 100 percent of that utility’s customers were in the dark: Bolton, Brimfield, East Brookfield, Goshen, Hampden, Hardwick, Harvard, Holland, New Braintree, Oakham, Wales, Warren, Wilbraham and Williamsburg.

WGBH's Sarah Birnbaum reported that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said power would be restored "house-by-house, block-by-block" at an October 31 press conference. He said there were an “unprecedented” number of crews on the ground —1500 — and that the power companies were calling in help from as far away as Louisiana, Texas, Michigan and Canada.
Since leaves were still on the trees, the weight of the wet snow caused branches to break, Patrick said. 

He declared a state of emergency for Massachusetts and asked the federal government to do the same.
The utility companies' response

In the wake of recent storms, utility companies have faced pressure to improve response times and communication with local officials. 
Massachusetts Energy Secretary Richard Sullivan, who oversees the utilities, said at the press conference that they’re doing a better job this time around.
“There’s been a lot of lessons learned, both from the ice storm and Irene, as well as the tornadoes,” he said. “There’s been more crews brought in earlier and pre-positioned.”
Communication has also improved, Sullivan said, with communities reporting “that they’re getting much better information, much quicker from the utilities.”

Patrick has declared a state of emergency for Massachusetts and asked the federal government to do the same.

In one town, a stadium lit up and houses dark

In Foxboro, 90 percent of residents were without power on the morning of October 31 — and furious with both National Grid and the New England Patriots. And no, not because the Pats lost Sunday. 

Some Foxboro residents claim Patriot Place, which is back up and running, gets its service fixed before residents. It happened after Tropical Storm Irene. Early Sunday evening, it happened again.

Patriots spokesman Jeff Cournoyer had a simple answer for that: The Patriots do get their power back first. But they pay for it, and it's not from Foxboro.

"After experiencing a power outage at Foxboro Stadium during 1996 AFC Championship game, the Kraft Group expanded the Wrentham substation to create a redundancy, with one power feed coming from the Wrentham substation and one coming from the Foxboro substation. That redundancy guaranteed that we would still have power if the feed was lost from one of the substations," Cournoyer said in an email.

"We do not own or operate the feed. We simply financed its expansion to protect our business and other businesses on the Route 1 corridor are currently serviced by it. We are currently only receiving power via that substation and, like most Foxboro residents and businesses, not receiving power from the Foxboro substation."

The October 31 National Grid update gave November 3 at 11:45 p.m. as the estimated time of power restoration in Foxboro.

Resigned to potentially several days without electricity, resident Raymond McKenna showed a reporter from WGBH's "Greater Boston" his own creative solution: He stashed a cooler of orange juice, milk and cold cuts in the snow.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.

national grid power outages

As of 6:00 p.m. October 31, power outages were still widespread across Mass. Click here to view the most up-to-date map. (National Grid)

National Grid Power Restoration Estimates, Oct. 31, 2011

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