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Patrick Says Utilities ‘Better Be’ Ready For Next Week’s Storm

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BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts officials following the track of Hurricane Sandy braced for the potential of widespread power outages from a storm that could bring gale-force winds and flooding to the region by early next week.

Gov. Deval Patrick said he expected to receive by Friday from the state’s major utility companies emergency plans for how they will deal with the storm.

The Utilities came under intense criticism last year following widespread and long-lasting power outages caused by the remnants of Hurricane Irene in August and a surprise October snowstorm.

WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager reports from Westport

Asked during his monthly “Ask the Governor” show on WTKK-FM if he expected utilities to be more prepared for this storm, Patrick responded: “They’d better be.”

Patrick signed a law earlier this year that requires utilities to dramatically improve communications with their customers during emergencies. Many residents and municipal officials in areas hard-hit by last year’s storm complained that they were unable to get accurate information from companies about when power might be restored.

The law requires the utilities to establish call centers that would be staffed around the clock after major storms to handle inquiries from customers about power restoration.

“People don’t want to deal with their utilities being out for days at a time, but if it’s going to be days at a time, they want to know it’s days at a time, and not, ‘We’re going to have it up at midnight,’ and midnight comes and goes and nothing happens,” Patrick said.

The law also requires utilities to designate liaisons with all cities and towns in their service areas.

Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown also sent a letter Thursday to utility companies asking for specific information on their storm preparations, including a comparison of their numbers of line crews and repair personnel compared with the same time last year.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, in a statement Thursday afternoon, said it was still too early to determine Sandy’s exact track but that computer models indicated it would hit the Northeast and mid-Atlantic region of the country as a tropical storm, with early Tuesday as a projected landfall.

MEMA warned that even if the storm made landfall south of New England, Massachusetts would still likely experience impacts such as damaging winds, power outages and flooding.

“Should Sandy make landfall in New England, the impacts will be even greater and Massachusetts would potentially experience a historic degree of freshwater and coastal flooding, wind damage and associated power outages,” the agency said.

Sandy hit Cuba as a Category 2 storm and is projected to move northward over the coming days.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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