90K Without Power In Mass., Coakley Questions Utilities

BOSTON (CBS) – About 90,000 homes and businesses were still without power in Massachusetts Wednesday, three days after Tropical Storm Irene.

National Grid reports late Wednesday evening that more than 68,000 of its nearly 1.3 million customers don’t have electricity. NStar says 22,000 of its customers still have no power. At the peak, there were more than half a million outages.

Even though crews are working around the clock, some people may not get their electricity restored until the weekend.

One of the biggest complaints has been a perceived lack of communication. Many people want to know when they’re getting their power back and say they’ve been unable to get an answer.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Laurie Kirby reports from Franklin

After more than three days, the power’s finally back on at the Norwell Council on Aging, so the afternoon cribbage game is a go.

But frustration, like everywhere in town, is high.

One of the council’s visitors, Wesley Osborne, can’t fathom why it has taken so long to bring electricity back.

“The way they run things now, how long would we wait in a real storm?” he asks.  “My question is, if we had a real hurricane, would we have to wait even weeks for power?”

Norwell is one of the towns hardest hit in terms of power loss and yet no one can point to why that’s the case.  According to the fire chief here, National Grid doesn’t exactly seem to be in a hurry to give officials any answers.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports from Norwell

“To have a plan in place that involves one component that refuses to play well with others is very difficult,” says Chief Andrew Reardon.   “National Grid made us some promises that they did not follow up on and I’m very frustrated with that.  Again, 96% of my community this morning was without power.”

While residents are annoyed, there is also an ongoing economic cost to measure.  Joseph’s Garage in Norwell Center is essentially out of business all week.

“I don’t see this problem being solved in the next 2 or 3 days,” says employee Gordon Crosier.  Getting power back, he notes, “seems to be taking a long time.”

Next door, Mary Campanelli had to throw out thousands of dollars worth of meats and cheese from her specialty foods store after she lost power and refrigeration.  Coming right before what should have been a very busy Labor Day weekend, Irene’s aftermath is a pricey one.

“I truly don’t want to go through something like this again,” she says.

Whether or not she, and everyone else here, will go through this again is largely up to National Grid.  But town leaders are not holding out much hope.

“For us to have a partner in the utilities that is not going to step up the way they said they were going to step up is detrimental,” said Chief Reardon.

In Bridgewater, Town Manager Troy Clarkson was among those public officials who tried to help the communication process. They knocked on doors on Tuesday to pass along information and get some feedback from residents who lost power.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz reports from Bridgewater

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is launching a fact-finding investigation into how utilities responded to the outages.

WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano reports

The office has fielded hundreds of complaints from customers upset about the slow pace of the recovery and what they describe as a lack of communication about when the power would be restored.

“The questions we’re asking the utilities right now are ‘what was your plan, how were you able to execute it, and what provisions did you make for communication’,” said Coakley.

The Attorney General wants to look at pre-event planning reports, correspondence, contact with state and local officials, and the sequence and numbers of repair crews and response times.

The utilities have thirty days to respond, but will be afforded more time if requested due to the storm.

Coakley says she’ll hold the line until she knows “what was reasonable and what may have been something they could have anticipated.”

But she wants to be able to report to the Department of Public Utilities and the public “what was done right and needs to be improved next time around.”

Last month the office announced a preliminary settlement with National Grid following its response to last December’s winter storm that also created severe power outages.

The Department of Public Utilities still has to approve the plan that would require National Grid pay $1.2 million dollars in addition to another one million dollars for training, charitable contributions and service improvements.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Karen Twomey reports from Foxboro

As for New Hampshire, Public Service of New Hampshire says all 125,000 people who lost power in the storm were expected to have it back on by midnight — with the exception of about 680 customers in the Town of Wakefield.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong & Beth Germano contributed to this report.

  • lisa

    day 4 and still no power in Carver. Thanks Nstar. for nothing

  • gigi

    i am sending positive vibes to NStar to please get me some power sooner than 10 pm on Sat – please please please……

    • gigi

      it worked!! yippee

  • Liz

    Here’s my problem. I live in Foxboro and it’s been 73 hours now without power. I honestly could deal with it (I know people had it much worse with the ice storms last year), but the false information we keep getting from Deval Patrick down to National Grid. I went on their site last night and it said it would be fixed by 12 am this morning, but low and behold still no power. When I click on their PDF it says Foxboro may not get power back until Friday or even as late as Sunday. 86% of their Foxboro customer without power it says and even worse in Sharon and Plainville. With the Pats game tomorrow night I want at least to have traffic lights! It’s so dangerous driving around here.

  • Beyond Annoyed

    Last winter with all that snow/all those storms I never lost power for more than a few hours. Now it’s been off since Sunday morning, and there was a week’s notice for these electric companies to prepare. So either they weren’t prepared, or are not rushing as fast since its’ Summer? And you can’t get any answers from anyone. I would really like to know the exact problem that is causing the outage on my street, but they all say they don’t know.

    • frank

      how do you prepare for down lines? really tell me how? do you want these people to go out and hold the lines together by hand during the storm. Once they get torn down you have to go out and put them back together one at a time. its not like plugging a cord into a wall socket.

      • A

        Easy, instead of patching it every year, you fix it once and for all.

        You dig down the cables like most other countries figured out decades ago

        But of course, no money in actually solving a problem.

  • Fred

    Be thankful you don’t have Unitil as your provider. I was out for a week during the last ice storm, and 6 days the previous ice storm.

  • Lisa Sullivan

    • 11:30 am – 1,145 Wayland customers out of power – 21.2%
    • 12:52 pm –-1,320 Wayland customers out of power – 24.45%
    • 4:00 pm – 1,446 Wayland customers out of power – 26.78%
    Something is wrong here. Why are the numbers going up? NStar, I fear, is generating false numbers. They will not return my calls. This is beyond frustrating and seems so unethical to me.

  • Jeff

    come on people just like fred said a few years ago central mass was hit with an ice storm and I did not have power for over a week and some other homes didnt have it for close to a month. These things happen and when dealing with electricity you cant be too careful. So stop your crying, it was a NATURAL DISASTER. Its not like they are just sitting around. These people have been working around the clock to to get power restored.

    • Cee Gee

      Have to agree with Jeff and Fred. After the ice storm, we had to leave our home and find a hotel 25 miles away. Stayed there for a wee at our own expense.It was actually a nice vacation. After hurricane Bob we were without power for a week. No problem. We cooked out and turned in early. IT’S A NATURAL DISASTER. QUIT WHINING. NUT UP OR SHUT UP. BE THANKFUL IT’S NOT THE DEAD OF WINTER THIS TIME.

    • David White

      I agree Jeff. Although it would nice if the power companies could send email updates to their customers on their progress and guestimate as to when power might be restored to particular communities. Telephone communications seem to get no where. In days of yore, you could leave your receiver off the hook so as not to get incoming calls. I worked in an office once where I was told to take off the receiver so we could catch up on our work without phone interuptions. Nowadays, calls can be routed to voice mails if lines are busy or humans are too busy to answer. But then it still takes time to return the calls! I believe every power company should have a public relations department to communicate progress either by email, or a message that responds to phone calls.

  • A

    Let’s look inward for a second.

    Imagine if this had been a real storm.
    Imagine if it as early warned would have been a Catagory 1 Hurricane

    The state would have been completely incapacitated

    Dig down those damn power lines.

    For freak sake. There are countries in Africa further ahead than this country when it comes to infrastructure.

    Dig them down and these outages every time the wind blows harder than 20 mph can be avoided

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  • annie

    I live on a one lane dirt road….. not private… There are four houses on this road…. We have been without power since Sunday morning….. Trees are down and wires are laying on the ground. Knowing that the we are usually the last ones reconnected, we have a generator…. However…it is very expensive to run so we use it sparingly….. We have not yet seen an Nstar truck come down the road….. I did call several times about the wires being down but never even was able to leave a message on the recorder.On Tuesday I did manage to reach a representative and they told me that we should be connected by Sept. 4…… I told the service representative I would like a more definite reponse and asked to speak to her supervisor…. she said no one was available… same for a manager…no one available….. Called the selectmens’ office and the secretary (or clerk) said they had nothing to do with the power outages …that wasn’t their job. She suggested that I call the Emergency Service Representative, a Mr. Tom Walsh. I did call him and he was as helpful as he could be and said that NStar, up until that morning, had not been very responsive to his requests for information. He also said that he had met with the selectman and that he was keeping track of where the trucks were and what progress they were making…… Thank you Mr. Walsh for the effort you are making. Just knowing that one person with some authority is making an effort to keep NStar in line is efreshing. It should also be noted that we have complained to NStar on previous occaisons about the trees and wires… They have sent Barnes tree service but they did very little to improve the situation.

  • Ken Malarkey

    Those defending the utilities and saying this was all caused by a natural disaster ignore the fact that since the wave of deregulation, utiilities nationwide have cut back on many things to maximize profits. I woud like to see state official examine the utilities staffing levels, availability of parts and equipment, whether thay have cut back on tree trimming, maintenance and upgrade of the electrical grid. The impact of Tropical Storm Irene in Eastern Massachusetts was minimal compared to what it would have been if it had been a full hurricane. I suspect utilities have cut to the bone to run “lean and mean” and follow the “just-in-time” sourcing philosophy, princicples promoted by the MBA’s excreted from the business schools over the last 30 years

  • Pierce

    In Marshfield, there was no power for about 60 hours. Although the Utility Companies were slow to initially react, they did what they had to do and get it fixed. Now it is tough for those people that live in rural parts of their towns. NStar or National Grid is not going to get to you until the power that is coming to your neighbor hood is fixed. There is no point on fixing some wires that aren’t going to have power getting to them. You have to start at the source and move outward. I will say that the communication was poor with all the residents. That needs to change. And for all you people saying ‘lets bury the lines’, its a lot harder than you think. Some problems are rock ledges, unstable soil, and even other utilities in the ground! And is not Cheap! You have to have a buffer zone around the lines and also encase them in concrete. Other countries have done this when they first installed all the utilities or had the money to do it. And to the people saying there needs to be more tree trimming, the downed wires are caused by tree limbs or even trees themselves that aren’t right next to the wires. In my town, a tree thirty feet away from the lines took them out, not the branches touching the wires. And just think, IT COULD BE WORSE.

  • I Still Don't Have Power

    I think the start of every post you should have to state if you have power or not. If you have it, didn’t lose it at all or got it back quickly, please don’t tell me to get over it. Norwell was hit hard, it’s all over the news, yet we are one of the last towns on the list National Grid is posting. In fact all the South Shore towns are. So what, start west and work east? Gee that’s fair. And in 3 days I’ve gotten 10 different restoration times, none of which have happened. Yes, it could be worse. But that doesn’t change that I lost several hundred dollars worth of food/meat, you all know food is not cheap these days. I have a family to feed. Can’t find ice anywhere. And I’m sorry, but utility companies are in the business of providing power – therefore they should have very good plans in place in case of issues like this. When I lost phone service one time the phone company offered me a credit over and above the loss, which I did not ask for but certainly appreciated and they kept my business. Little harder with utility co’s, we need power so we’re stuck. The winter they took too long, they now have to pay up. Kudos to the linemen who are out 24/7, they can only do what they are told and if they stop to take a nap let them rest.

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