Power returns to Southborough amid complaints

by susan on August 30, 2011

Post image for Power returns to Southborough amid complaints

Above: A map showing power outages in Southborough (via National Grid)

Power is slowly coming back to Southborough homes, but not without some grumbling on the part of both residents and town officials. Nearly the entire town lost power during Tropical Storm Irene on Sunday.

Power restoration has been spotty. As of Monday night, some residents had their power back while neighbors just one street over might not. Power started coming back on the north side of town late Monday afternoon. Areas on the south side started seeing the lights come on later that night.

Despite pressure from town officials, National Grid said they were not able to provide a timeline on when power will be fully restored. In a press release yesterday, Southborough officials said they have “continually stressed our frustration with the lack of information on the restoration of power and telephone service.”

Southborough residents didn’t need press releases to express their frustration. Instead, many turned to Twitter.

“Was just out on the road. Lots of down lines and traffic; didn’t see a single repair truck in Southborough,” tweeted one resident. “Where are national grid TRUCKS?” tweeted another.

Selectman John Rooney wondered why his Southborough neighborhood lost power when one just over the line in Ashland did not. “I struggle to understand why one electric utility’s equipment suffers such disparate impact from another’s equipment when subjected to nearly identical forces,” he wrote in a comment on this blog.

He also questioned National Grid’s preparation for the storm.

“I have yet to see a National Grid truck in my neighborhood, which cynically causes me to wonder whether we are dealing with an undermanned recovery effort that will inevitably frustrate and anger many,” he wrote. “How aggressive was National Grid in lining up repair crews, ready to swing into action if outages occurred, to augment its own linemen?”

What do you think about the power outages and National Grid’s response? Share your thoughts in the comments.

1 Southside Gadsden Flyer August 30, 2011 at 8:03 AM

National Grid claims TS Irene in recent emails was “one of the biggest storms in decades.” Am I the only one worried about their response this coming winter? Still powerless on the southside…

2 Annie August 30, 2011 at 9:02 AM

We just got our power back around 3AM and were on the south side to! Over near parkerville

3 grateful August 30, 2011 at 9:29 AM

Considering the massive amount of work that needed to get done, I think National Grid, the various private contractors, the towns, etc. did a very good job. When you look at all the damage, it’s fairly remarkable that we were only without power for 24-48 hours. Special thanks also to our firefighters, police, town workers and volunteers who worked around the clock the last several days.

4 grateful too August 30, 2011 at 9:39 AM

We got power around 2:15 this morning, and like grateful above, I’m grateful it returned so quickly. Trying to take my normal backroad route from Southborough to Framingham this morning, I saw lots of downed trees and wires, and was detoured so much I had to use my GPS to find my way back to the main roads. I’m very grateful to the local National Grid crews and all the out-of-state helpers who have come to our aid.

5 Flagg August 30, 2011 at 9:50 AM

The original four houses on Flagg Road to lose power are still out. The rest of the road has power. We are going on three days now. A transformer exploded around 9:00 on Sunday.

6 SB Resident August 30, 2011 at 12:09 PM

I think that national grid did a terrible job in communication. We have amazing technology to disseminate information nowadays and the generic cr*p of “it could be weeks” they were broadcasting is worthless. Whether its likely to be hours a day or two, or three plus days is very important information that can really help individual people to make decisions on whats best for their family in how to deal with the power outage. I am sure they knew early yesterday that most of Southborough would be back on by the end of the day, and they should be required to tell us that. I just don’t get how they don’t get that they work for us!

Given that there was no communication about what the problems were, I can’t say whether or not I think they did a good job at getting us back on quickly. I drove around the north side of town a bit and didn’t see any powerline problems, so I assume that there was just one or two major things keeping most of the town out. With that assumption and the beautiful weather, it seems like it kinda took a while…

But really what do we expect when we setup monopolies that will have no consequences for bad service…

7 Helen August 30, 2011 at 2:54 PM

I saw many trucks from Michigan and I think some from Canada over in Westborough, sitting in a parking lot… I’m assuming after getting Westboro restored, since most of Westborough had power by then… but NOT ONE electric truck during all my detours (paving on Southville Road detours, another story!) in Southborough. It wasn’t until about 6pm on Monday that I saw some trucks go down my street and we had power within a few hours. I guess the bigger question is that why do some towns get their power fixed quicker than others? Shouldn’t there be teams in all areas, assuming that there were numerous backup crews from NG? Funny, I just got a voicemail from NG checking about the power, a little late… there was a total lack of good communication from them throughout the storm.

But lets remember to give credit to all the linemen/women and all the rescue personnel for their dedication throughout the storm and its aftermath!

8 Al Hamilton August 30, 2011 at 3:05 PM

It is possible that the folks using those trucks were eating, or even sleeping. The last thing any of us should want is a like worker handling a chainsaw or a high voltage line after being up for 24 hours.

9 jim August 30, 2011 at 3:23 PM

Kind of disappointed to read Selectmen Rooney post. It seemed to be just griping without getting his facts.

My family also lost power for 36 hrs and I did not see one National Grid truck in my area ever, yet we got power restored. So perhaps the power issue may have been in another area or at an electrical sub-station somewhere. So complaining about not seeing a truck in your area may be the wrong approach. I read that more than twenty of these sub-stations were damaged!

As for National Grid’s preparation, they brought in crews from Michigan and Canada! What more do you expect?

I’m glad they focused on getting service back immediately to the hospitals, nursing homes and others who really needed it. For the rest of us, it was a major inconvenience. Let’s all try, starting with our selectmen, to keep this in perspective.

I am VERY grateful for the dangerous work done by the lineman and tree workers. Can you imagine riding in a bucket truck in the rain with high winds and trees over live electric lines? When I drove my some workers this morning, I took the time to stop and thank them.

And yes, I did some guys in a truck from Michigan taking a nap. Working in a physically demanding and dangerous job for 48hrs with little or no sleep, after driving all the way from Michigan, well sure, PLEASE take a nap if you are tired! Al Hamilton’s post is right on the money!

Better we should all stop the whining and out our energy into thanking the National Grid workers and our own excellent firemen, DPW workers and emergency workers in town. We are very fortunate to have excellent leadership at the fire department and DPW and its reflected in the terrific service during this storm.

10 Jerry C August 30, 2011 at 4:43 PM

In Hurricane Gloria (1985) we didn’t have electricty in Hopkinton for more than a week. We ended up out this time for about 32 hours. I was concerned that this outage would be very long and was relieved that we got electricity back this quickly.

One thing people should know is that if you have an insurance claim, you can add in the value of the food that was spoiled.

11 Karen Muggeridge August 30, 2011 at 4:56 PM

How easy it is to criticize without knowing details. I do not why we were without power for 34 hours, but I would like to assume that the NG was most likely triaging their manpower to the best of their abilities. I had a 130 year old oak tree come down on the back of my house, and a cherry tree come down in the front, so I knew conditions were bad. I know that NG brought in many workers from out of state. I don’t need to see people on my street to know power outages are being worked on being resolved. OSHA laws also do limit consecutive hours and such for NG workers, and rightly so. I am sure many of the workers slept, or took their mandatory breaks in their trucks, as there was no where else for them to go.
As an RN, with emergency response training, I had gone out to Brimfield, and volunteered after the tornadoes, and we should be grateful that we had the level of communication that we had.
While many may not have expected the length of time w/o power, we were given plenty of notice and that we were right there on the map in the track of the storm. This outcome should not have come as a total surprise.
The Natick campus of Metro West Medical Center is still on generator. While I am grateful to have my power, I would be hard pressed to say that crews should be working on restoring mine before that job, or that of a nursing homes, etc….
By all means, at a later date, look into whether there can be improvements made in how the response was handled. I have seen that people on the state level may already be doing this.
Maybe the town can go around and do more tree trimming around lines, or other such things, but for now I don’t have enough information to judge and am grateful to all who have been doing hard work in response to Irene’s ravages.
God bless those who have been, and still are, inconvenienced much more than I have and for those who have had loss of life!

12 Tina August 30, 2011 at 11:56 PM

Ditto!

Thank you Karen. How can anyone criticize the emergency workers from the comfort of their own home with electricity!!!!!

13 Helen August 30, 2011 at 5:05 PM

I agree, I’ve VERY GRATEFUL for the hard work done by all the line crews and emergency personnel… and as I worked for New England Power as a contractor (in the offices) for about 7 years before it got bought out by National Grid, I know how hard these people work… Not so thrilled with their management’ communications though.

And yes, there was a power line down on my street, which got fixed after 6pm or so yesterday, though I’m not sure which trucks I saw passing by my house, I didn’t see the names on them. I was just thrilled that they were finally there! :)

14 Publius August 30, 2011 at 5:24 PM

Considering the enormity of the storm the utilities did a pretty good job. The Turnpike on saturday had numerous convoys from out of state coming in to help out. The advance warning paid off. Since this was not the first or second or even the third storm resulting in some outages and more will surely come perhaps the wise invest in a generator and transformer switch. Or just hope for the best next time.

15 Pat Q August 30, 2011 at 5:47 PM

Very grateful to have been woken up at 2:30 am by bright lights suddenly coming on!
(My sister out in Norton is still without power)

One upside to Irene………..my freezer and refrigerator haven’t been this clean since
I moved in 14 years ago! It’s so shiny I don’t want to put anything in! : )

16 Neil Rossen August 30, 2011 at 7:25 PM

I’m just grateful that we on Pine Hill Road were on line by about 6 last night. They had to clear a large tree that had fallen across the road and cut off electric and phone lines. Think of the folks in Vt…or in NJ…or elsewhere who’ve had a bad time of it…

17 John Rooney August 30, 2011 at 8:58 PM

I cannot stand with those bestowing praise on NG while 245 families are still without power from a tropical storm with winds that are said to have peaked at 41 mph in town. Those who pin a “Whiner” badge on my prior post confuse cause and effect. I have nothing but the utmost respect for the linesmen and lineswomen who continue to do Herculean work (effect); my consternation concerns the apparently vulnerable, yet critically important, transmission lines (cause).

One of the keys to minimizing the damage suffered as a result of such a storm is advance preparedness. In order to decrease the possibility an event will adversely affect people or property, structural measures to protect critical transmission lines seems to be a prerequisite for a responsible utility.

Common sense indicates that something is wrong when my neighbor who is serviced by a different utility had no interruption in service. If it is simply the location of the transmission lines, perhaps what is needed is an analysis on design improvements or the implementation of appropriate backup system redundancy. To maintain the status quo portends future interruptions especially when faced with a more potent storm.

In any event, there is surely a need for more effective communication. An automated recording telling us to call 911 if there is an emergency does not bring comfort, nor provide important information, to those without power.

I will proudly wear the badge of “whining” if by doing so causes expedited reinstatement of power to those 245 families or causes less interruption in the future.

18 Frank Crowell August 30, 2011 at 9:28 PM

I could not agree more. Your two key points are valid. Did NG do all it could have done well prior to the storm and why did another utility, apparently, do a better job? It would be nice to know who could answer those questions fairly.

19 Tina August 31, 2011 at 12:01 AM

Gosh John, we live in an area with overhead power lines and hundreds of thousands of trees! If you wanted to prevent mature trees falling in any overhead lines, one would need to cut back healthy tree probably 30 feet from every power line!

Its interesting to see how many trees fell that seemed healthy yet so many tress that we thought were dying survived.

You seem to be throwing stones at NG before you have facts.

20 Al Hamilton August 31, 2011 at 8:10 AM

John

First, the wind did not take out the power in most cases. It was trees knocked over by a combination of saturated ground, being in leaf, and the wind that did the job. Unless we are prepared to create a treeless “cordon sanitaire” of 60 or 70 feet around every power line we are going to suffer these types of outages again and again. New Englanders like tree lined streets (look at the fuss raised if you try to cut some down) so this is a price we are going to have to pay over and over..

As far as preparation by the Utilities goes the crew that fixed the wires on Pine Hill Road was from Iron Mountain, Mi. That is the upper peninsula near the Minnesota border, a 1,250 mile drive. That meant that they left Wed or Thurs to be here for the weekend events. There is not an endless supply of people or equipment that can do this job. It requires very skilled workers and hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment per crew. The work is very dangerous (more dangerous according to the BLS than being a police officer or firefighter). The utilities emptied half the country of these people to bring our service back I am not sure how much more you can expect them to do.

Finally, I heard an interesting piece on the radio about the triage system the utilities use to determine how to allocate these scarce resources. If you live near a Hospital you are going to get your power back sooner than if you have lost the line from the pole to your house. The basic plan is to get the most people back on line as quickly as possible. Southborough does not have any hospitals or other absolutely critical infrastructure. We are much less densely populated that many of the surrounding communities (which also still have pockets of lost power) so the “bang for the buck” of fixing lines in Southborough is less than it is in Framingham, Ashland, Marlborough or Natick.

I do agree with you that getting information about repair status is very frustrating. I suspect that the utilities infrastructure to handle this is not up to the task.

We live in a culture of instant gratification and once in a while it is not a bad thing to be smacked in the face with a mackerel and reminded that we cant always get what we want.

21 Frank Crowell August 31, 2011 at 8:56 AM

Al,

I do not doubt your observations or anyone else on this board, a fair and factual review is still warranted. Whether this is done at the state or town level would be a good discussion.

Whatever comes out of this, we would all be better served with a little competition. I heard about this bill while listening to a lot of radio that last few days. Seems like a good idea to me.

http://www.massmunichoice.org/

22 jim August 31, 2011 at 1:57 PM

Al-

As usual, your comments were on-point, accurate and informative.

Thank you.

23 Doun September 7, 2011 at 1:03 PM

Mr Rooney,

The only part of your post I agree with is the need for better communication.

We had crews coming to our area from the midwest and Quebec. I saw crews this past weekend in Maryland from Alabama and Tenessee. Yesterday, 10 days after the eye of the storm came through Long Island, there were still crews from Iowa and Kentucky working!

I do not mean to be harsh when I write that you, and the rest of us including me, just don’t know what we are talking about when we criticize the design of the power transmission lines.

There’s a reason a hurricane is called an act of God.

Let’s let the professionals look into this and determine how they can do a better job next time because there sure will be a next time! But please, stop the whining.

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