Power restoration progresses in wake of devastating nor’easter

Published on October 28, 2021 by Chris Galford

Credit: Eversource

In the aftermath of the season’s first nor’easter that struck the East Coast late Tuesday, electric utility companies are making significant progress on power restoration across Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, officials said.

“We’ve got resources, we’ve got equipment, we’ve got whatever materials will be needed,” Joe Nolan, Eversource Energy president and CEO, said during a briefing in Cape Cod, Mass., on Thursday. “Tonight when the sun goes down you’ll see an extraordinary drop in the amount of customers that are without power – I can promise you that.”

Eversource noted that hundreds of thousands of customers lost power as a result of hurricane-force winds that topped 100 mph in some areas and heavy rain that caused significant and widespread damage to power lines and trees. According to Nolan’s estimation, 98 percent of customers will likely see power returned by 6 p.m. Saturday. As of Thursday afternoon, approximately 171,000 customers remained without power in eastern Massachusetts, according to Eversource’s outage map.

Thousands of utility workers from out of state are helping Eversource restore power in Massachusetts. 

“Eversource is fortunate, we have 9,300 talented employees that have come in from New Hampshire, that have come in from Connecticut, we’ve got crews that have come from Canada, and from all across the country that have come here to help us and we’re very proud of them,” Nolan said. 

Downed trees and power lines from the storm were extensive on Cape Cod, where Eversource has crews at work. Nolen said that once it’s commissioned in about two months, a 25-megawatt battery storage project at the Provincetown transfer station on the Outer Cape will allow the company to provide backup power for communities facing unexpected outages like these. 

A similar situation is faced by National Grid, which reported 160,113 of its customers across Massachusetts and Rhode Island remained without power as of 9 a.m. Thursday. This followed restorations to some 300,000 customers over the last few days, thanks to the efforts of 3,691 field-based personnel, consisting of a mix of overhead line, forestry, contractors, underground, damage assessment, wires down, transmission and substation workers. Hundreds of additional external line and external forestry crews are also at work. 

“I’m proud of our crews who have continued to work safely in very challenging conditions to restore power to so many customers, but we’re very mindful that our job is not done until every customer is restored,” Michael McCallan, vice president of New England Electric Operations for National Grid, said. “Today we continue our focus on restoring our remaining impacted customers as safely and quickly as possible, while also working to provide more refined estimated times for restoration.”

National Grid is regularly updating estimates on town level restoration through an outage central map. It also warned that restoration can include de-energizing and re-energizing lines, which can in turn cause outage numbers and estimated restoration times to fluctuate.

In the meantime, utilities noted that they are prioritizing restoration for critical facilities like schools and those outages impacting the largest number of customers. 

According to PowerOutage.US, some 490,000 had been left without power in Massachusetts after the storm’s initial wrath, with an additional 92,000 customers plunged into the dark in Rhode Island.