OFILE E-J ELECTRIC, E.S. BOULOS CO. AND MCPHEE ELECTRIC
own men, on hand for reconstruction after the expected storm.
E.S. Boulos’ linemen set themselves up in a hotel staging area
to wait out the storm. NStar called them out to start work,
but E.S. Boulos’ crews found that they couldn’t get more than
1,000 feet from the hotel before local authorities sent them
back inside, as the conditions were not yet safe enough for
“Travel conditions were terrible,” said Rick Hanlin, director
of utilities for E.S. Boulos. Winds were sustained at 40–50 miles
per hour and gusting around 80 mph, while the tide surged and
snow and ice fell. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards require that line work not be performed
when wind is stronger than 35 mph.
Once the storm passed, E.S. Boulos crews spent three days
replacing power poles, putting primary power lines back in
place and reconstructing secondary power services to homes.
The work was fast, efficient and nearly uneventful, Hanlin said.
Storm cleanup didn’t used to be that way.
“Organization is better, especially in heavily populated
areas,” he said, adding that the improved organization is tak-
ing place on both the utility and private contractors’ side. “We
keep project management staff on hand, looking out ahead”
When storms are forecast, often a thousand miles or more
from their location, the company will then send rosters to the
utilities they work for and offer specific help.
National Grid Utility spokesperson Jake Navarro confirmed
that utilities have increased their storm-preparedness efforts.
“The way we were preparing was as if several hundred
thousand customers lost power,” Navarro said.
Such preparation helped ensure that outages were resolved
as fast as possible. The company set up about seven staging
areas throughout its coverage region, mostly in Massachusetts.
Nantucket, where 14,000 customers lost power, was the
hardest hit. Several submarine cables feed the island, and
the storm did not damage them. However, heavy waves and
flooding damaged a substation, and the resulting mechanical
problem occurred around 7 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27, shutting
down power service to most of the island.
National Grid sent five internal crews and 40 additional
contractor crews onto the island. Workers repaired utility poles
damaged by wind—equipment had already been prestaged
on-site—so that only the trucks needed to be transported to the
island by ferry immediately before and after the storm. The substation was in operation again by 5 p.m., Tuesday and brought
power back on in phases, beginning with the hospital and then
the high school, which was serving as an emergency shelter.
Contractors came to New England from as far away as Canada, Georgia and the Midwest, Navarro said.
The utility followed up the repair work with aerial patrols of
transmission lines over its entire coverage area, and, although
a series of snowstorms passed after the blizzard, no extensive
Navarro said the minimal number of outages did not mean
the storm was insignificant. In fact, Worcester, Mass., received
its highest one-day snow total of 34. 6 inches.
“I attribute it to the investments we’ve made in our system,”
he said, adding that this includes risk of knocking down lines
anywhere in the network.
Some other private enterprises have developed ways to
get customers powered up more quickly or temporarily. For
example, while most single-family dwellings don’t have their
own generators, a hybrid or electric car can act as a generator if power can be drawn from its battery. Princeton Power
Systems—the creator of bidirectional electric vehicle charging
stations—has also developed a way for vehicle-to-grid systems
to be set up at refueling stations, making cars into power generators. The system draws energy from a car’s battery and can
then push that energy onto the local power grid long enough
to provide some interim power until the power infrastructure
S WEDBERG is a freelance writer based in western Washington.
She can be reached at email@example.com. P H
E-J reaches out to utilities in affected areas
once they identify potential damaging storm
patterns, and the contractor offers
services based on crew availability.
crews were set
to help repair