State’s Fourth Worst Storm-Related Power Outage Puts Town in Dark

The state’s fourth most significant storm-related power outage left thousands of Londonderry residents in the dark on Thanksgiving.

By 9 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 30, electricity utility Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) announced restoration efforts throughout the state were substantially complete, thanks to the efforts of more than 1,500 line workers and tree specialists, assisted by thousands of support personnel.

Fire Chief Darren O’Brien said 3,100 Londonderry residents were without power at the height of the storm on Thanksgiving. PSNH reduced that number through restoration efforts to 1,619 customers by Nov. 27.

Power was restored to more than 300,000 customers in New Hampshire, with fewer than 1,500 customers still without power Sunday morning.

Hundreds of additional line workers began arriving Thanksgiving Day to help with restoration efforts, including crews from PSNH sister Northeast Utilities companies in Massachusetts and Connecticut, as well as crews from Vermont, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and Quebec and Ontario in Canada.

Efforts to restore power to the 10,570 Londonderry customers were substantially complete by Sunday morning, according to PSNH.

“Londonderry is supplied by major circuits. It’s likely most people will see their power restored over the weekend,” Laura Collins of PSNH said Nov. 28. “It gets tough a few days after the storm, once the major circuits are restored. Where you have a house up a long road, that’s when it becomes a little more complicated. You have to send crews out to individual locations.”

Damage from the storm continued until about 3 a.m. on Thanksgiving.

Collins said additional workers arrived the following day from Alabama, Michigan and Canada.

“There are always going to be a certain number of people on call in case of a problem. But it’s not typical for us to have 800 people on duty on Thanksgiving. That’s a significant number of people both internally and brought in,” Collins said, adding there were also many crews put on standby on Nov. 26 in anticipation of the winter storm.

Also responding to an influx of calls due to the winter storm was the Londonderry Fire Department. Battalion Chief Mike McQuillen said the department saw a high volume of 911 calls for medical assistance and emergencies resulting from the inclement weather.

“There were a significant amount of power lines down and some small fires,” he said. “There weren’t any really significant calls and we handled them ourselves. We did call in off-duty staff, as the call volume was unusually high.”

O’Brien said the department responded to 159 emergency calls between Nov. 26 and Nov. 30.

Additionally McQuillen said they had to transport some residents to area hospitals for carbon monoxide exposure due to generators running inside or too close to their homes.

“We spot checked a few areas where generators were running when responding to calls and checking damage,” he said. “We use the gas meters on our apparatus to check inside the house for carbon monoxide levels and if the levels are too high or the residents are symptomatic, we transport them to a hospital.”

McQuillen said they generally see generators being used incorrectly as people get tired and run down. He noted carbon monoxide has no odor, which makes it difficult for homeowners to identify the gas.

“Fossil fuels should never run inside a garage or in close proximity to a home,” he said.

Additionally, the Fire Department was assessing damage on Nov. 28 to ensure trees blocking roads were removed, and reporting to PSNH downed wires that were blocking road access to emergency vehicles.

As the storm work continued, McQuillen and the fire chief got together “to identify the priorities for the next 24 hours, and were in contact with the State to see what needs were throughout New Hampshire.

Road closures on Nov. 27 included a portion of King Henry Drive, Apollo Road, Greeley Road, and Windsor Boulevard.

Governor Maggie Hassan announced on Nov. 27 that her office and public safety and emergency management officials opened the Emergency Operations Center and were working closely with the utilities and local communities on response efforts to the storm. “This was a major event that affected households and communities across the state as families came together for the Thanksgiving holiday,” she said, noting as efforts continued, the State was coordinating with the Red Cross and other local entities to ensure that families had the shelter and other resources they needed to stay warm over the holiday.

Hassan also urged residents and families to make plans, take the necessary precautions and check on their neighbors to ensure everyone stayed warm until power restoration efforts were complete.

The Londonderry and Derry Fire Departments worked in conjunction with A Londonderry Emergency Response Team (ALERT) to open a shelter at the Londonderry High School gymnasium for residents of Greater Derry early Thanksgiving evening, offering those without power a warm place to stay, showers and a hot meal.

“I was the first one in the door,” said Joan E. Freeman of East Derry.

Freeman said the cold woke her a little past 9 p.m. on Nov. 26. On Nov. 27 she helped serve Thanksgiving dinner at a church in Derry, then checked in with the Fire Department when she realized the power in her home wasn’t returning and temperatures there had dropped.

“I came to this shelter five years ago during the ice storm and I was so impressed,” said Freeman, whose closest family is 60 miles away and was very excited to hear Londonderry’s shelter would be open. “I’m so grateful.”

O’Brien said a total of six people stayed at the shelter, with two people staying on Friday night, when temperatures dropped.

O’Brien said two people who stayed overnight were from Hudson, one person was from Fremont, and three were Derry residents.

An additional 18 people from Londonderry and neighboring communities used the showers and about 11 stopped in for a meal and to recharge their mobile phones.

As well as offering residents a place to stay, the shelter had a warm area where people could crate their pets.

“That’s one of the reasons we hear people don’t come to the shelter. Because they’re worried to leave their pets at home in the cold,” ALERT volunteer Doreen Martinetti said.

O’Brien said by 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 28, the number of Londonderry residents without power had dropped down to 527 customers.

The shelter closed at noon on Saturday, Nov. 29.

On Monday morning, only two Londonderry customers were still without power, according to PSNH.

Town Manager Kevin Smith thanked “all the PSNH workers who worked diligently around the clock to get power restored,” as well as the Fire and Police departments, the Town’s Public Works employees, and ALERT volunteers who staffed the Town’s emergency shelter.

“I want to commend and thank all the folks who stepped up and did an incredible job serving the Town,” he said.

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