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How Stoughton Responded to Irene

Power outages, public safety concerns and clean-up of debris created a long and eventful week for town officials (and for Stoughton residents).

“As of September 2, at 4:33 p.m. National Grid reports only 90 customers remain without power in the Town of Stoughton,” Acting Fire Chief Mark Dolloff wrote in a release sent to local media Friday afternoon.

“The light at the end of the tunnel is once again shining bright. Thank you to all the residents for being so cooperative during this difficult time. Stoughton Pride Shines again.”

The statement almost echoes the famous line from Gerald Ford’s inaugural address when Ford, assuming the presidency after President Richard Nixon had resigned as a result of the Watergate scandal, proclaimed: “Our long national nightmare is over.”

hit Stoughton on Sunday as a tropical storm—her winds and rains not living up to their forecasted potential, but don’t tell that to the ten-thousand National Grid customers in town who , many for the better part of this week. 

The widespread outages in town, and the it took town officials to get National Grid to restore power in a more timely and efficient manner placed an increased burden on the town’s post-storm response and cleanup.

“It has been a difficult week,” Stoughton’s Police Department Executive Officer Robert Devine said, exasperated. “The town has done a great job but it hasn’t been easy.” 

Town Manager Francis T. Crimmins, Jr., who was still without power as of Thursday morning, expressed his concern for everyone inconvenienced by the power outage’s duration. 

He conveyed his empathy for families facing the ever shrinking, back to school timeline.  However, Crimmins’ deepest concern was for the residents enduring much more grave circumstances.

“Right now, there is someone sitting at home dependent on a respirator which requires power. There are others looking out their windows at massive tree limbs, wondering just which way they will fall, hoping to avoid any further damage to the gaping hole in their roof,” he said on Thursday.

As the work week comes to a close, 3.7 percent of National Grid customers remain without power in Stoughton. But on Wednesday at 6 p.m.—about 72 hours after Irene started winding down, 5,960 customers were without power, a little more than 50 percent of the customers.

On Tuesday at 6 p.m. —there were whole sections of town left in the dark for multiple days. The rate of restoral in Stoughton the rate in surrounding communities.

When it came to dealing with the power outages Stoughton Polcie Chief Paul Shastany said, “We had to be accountable; we had to explain [National Grid’s] shortcomings.”

“Crews did not equal what we were being told which generated frustration and why we elevated our concerns,” the Chief continued. 

“Patrol officers were stopping trucks to see what they were doing and where they were working. I was interviewing linemen. We counted them, we logged everything—we knew what they were doing. There was an abundance of assessments and a deficit of repairs.”

Town Manager Crimmins added, “It has been a busy time for the people on the Emergency Management team.” 

The Emergency Management Team is comprised of Crimmins, Dolloff, Shastany and DPW Superintendent John Batchelder.

The tracking of National Grid was just another thing on their plates.  There were many other hazards left in Irene’s wake.

The Stoughton Police Department responded to more than 300 calls for service at the height of the storm and more than 800 in four days. 

Tuesday’s and dark neighborhoods thanks to the power outages provided ample opportunity for break-ins. 

On the night of the storm alone there were several in the vicinity of Charles Ave. However, the alleged perpetrators—Octaviano Alves, 28, of Brockton, Valdir Barrows, 24, of Brockton, and a 16-year-old juvenile from Stoughton, were apprehended and the stolen goods were reclaimed. 

In fact, the power outage forced the proceedings to be held in the Police Department’s Role Call Room on Monday, which included the arraignment of the three aforementioned suspects. 

“We adapted and we improvised, thanks to the help of Robin Vaughn, the clerk of courts,” Devine said.

Following the storm, Devine explained that the SPD ensured that patrols were assigned to the neighborhoods hardest hit by outages, as an extra layer of protection.

knocked down dozens of trees and wires around town, which kept public safety officials busy in the days following the storm.

During the storm, there was such a flurry of activity that even with extra staff on hand Dolloff said his department and other departments "weren't able to fully cover all issues."

"We were spread thin."

Prior to the storm, Batchelder said the DPW put in a “solid week’s worth of prep.” Batchelder, who was supposed to have the day off on Monday, instead spent the day after the storm helping to lead the DPW’s clean-up efforts and assess the damage around town.

Some of the damage was in his own yard.  A tree fell, causing damage to his garage, fence, basketball hoop and two of his family’s cars.

“There was so much going on behind the scenes”, Shastany said of Stoughton’s response to Irene. 

“The people of the town are definitely getting their moneys worth on the tax paying side, but not on the side of the utilities. We knew the storm was coming and we were prepared.”

As for the utilities? Many in town might say they (like thousands of Stoughton’s residents this week) were in the dark.

linda pearl September 02, 2011 at 11:12 PM
We got our lights on Thursday, morning. I was very grateful. Listening to the radio, I heard the outage count going down every day. National Grid was doing all they could,as fast as they could. As I watched the news,and saw what other towns were doing for their residents, I knew nothing of what our town was doing:( What did we do?
Timmy September 04, 2011 at 01:39 PM
I was a little disappointed that when Ash Street was totally blocked off due to the storm, the DPW nor the Police Dept. put a sign or any identification on either end of Ash noting the road was closed. You had to drive to the barriers, then turn around and neighbors driveways to get out and seek alternative routes. This continued for most of the week. Whether you came in from Park Street or from Sumner Street there was no notification the road was closed until you reached the barriers. Needless to say, at both commuting periods, it was a disaster. Both DPW and cops were there a great deal during the clean up, but ignored the cars that had to turn around on a narrow curvey road and screw traffic up for others who didnt know the road was closed.

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