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Irene vs. Sandy: National Grid's Response "Night and Day" Stoughton Officials Say

Stoughton's Emergency Management tea held a post-Hurricane Sandy press conference Tuesday afternoon discussing the storm's impact. Officials credited National Grid for improved communication and response times.

The magnitude of outages were different - loss of power was not as widespread for Hurricane Sandy on Monday as it was with Tropical Storm Irene back in August 2011, but Stoughton officials nonetheless said there was a marked improvement in communication and in response time from National Grid this time around.

"It was night and day," Stoughton Police Executive Officer Robert Devine said when comparing National Grid's responses to the two storms. "Last August I can't tell you how frustrating it was to get information."

Members of the Stoughton Emergency Management team addressed members of the media in a post-Sandy pres conference at Fire Station 2 Tuesday afternoon.

"Since our meeting that we had after our last incident things have improved 200-percent," Stoughton DPW Superintendent John Batchelder said.

This time around, Batchelder said National Grid was "proactive in removing trees that they thought would be issues." He said communication between the town and the company was "improved."

"We were in touch before the storm was even here," Stoughton Police Chief Paul Shastany said. "We take our lessons learned and move forward to the next situation."

Nearly 10,000 National Grid customers in Stoughton lost power due to Tropical Storm Irene, many for the better part of a week, as National Grid drew criticism for its slow response to restoring power throughout the state.

Sandy-related outages peaked at about 2,100 of the town's 12,399 customers (17-percent) as of 6 a.m. Tuesday. But by 6 p.m. Tuesday, just 573 customers were without power (4.6 percent). And, by 5 a.m. Wednesday, 142 were without power (1.1 percent).

In a press release, National Grid said that half of its 237,000 Massachusetts customers affected by Hurricane Sandy had their power restored within the first 12 hours of losing it.

According to the National Grid outage website, the remaining Stoughton customers are expected to have their power back by 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 1

Debby Casna, a National Grid residential sales consultant, served an in-person liaison between the town and National Grid. She was at the Emergency Management Headquarters at Fire Station 2 during the storm and will continue her work there until power is fully restored.

During the storm the New England Sinai Hospital lost power and was running on a generator. And, early Tuesday morning before the start of school, the South Elementary School lost power. Town officials credited National Grid for restoring power to both places promptly, and in the case of the South School, before school had started.

Interim Town Manager Joseph Feaster convened the Tuesday afternoon press conference, which included the aforementioned Shastany, Devine, Batchelder and Casna, as well as Deputy Fire Chief Greg Goldberg, who served as the head of the Emergency Management team this storm.

The Emergency Management team is made up of the Stoughton Fire Department, Police Department and DPW.

Feaster said the town was "in good hands" during the storm. He credited Goldberg for his leadership.

The Fire, Police and DPW all had extra staff on hand to help with the storm response. Goldberg said the Fire Department logged 48 incidents during the storm, while Shastany said the Police received 95 calls. The DPW was able to collect trash on both Monday and Tuesday, in addition to responding to storm-related calls.

Devine said the use of social media, with the Police and Fire departments giving residents real-time updates on Facebook helped to decrease the amount of non-emergency related 911 calls.

When Goldberg spoke shortly after 1 p.m. on Tuesday he said seven National Grid distribution feeders, or sub stations, were out in the area, two of which feed Stoughton, one to the north and one to the south.

Once these feeders are up and running the bulk of power will be restored. But they can't be energized until downed wires are secure. There still is no estimate of when all power will be restored.

Casna stressed the importance of each individual outage being reported to National Grid through the company's outage line - 1-800-465-1212 (or 1-800-322-3223) - so that each incident can be logged.

"Although it may seem the town of Stoughton dodged a bullet, many residents were adversely affected," Goldberg said, noting power outages and cases of property damage.

Still, Stoughton came away from this Hurricane relatively unscathed, compared to the damage and power outages sustained during Irene and compared to the damage the New York/New Jersey area experienced as a result of Sandy.

"Thank God some of what was experienced in New York wasn't here," Feaster said.

DJ October 31, 2012 at 01:39 PM
National grid responded promptly to our outage. Thank you!

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