BOSTON, Mass. – As Hurricane Sandy nears, the state is taking precautions against a repeat of last year's Halloween power outages in the wake of the "Snowtober" snowstorm with the hope that any residents left in the dark will not have to face it for long.
Gov. Deval Patrick on Friday met with Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray and cabinet secretaries to discuss preparations for the potential impact of Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to reach the area late Sunday night. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) is monitoring the storm, coordinating with local public safety officials and conducting pre-incident planning with select emergency support functions. The Department of Public Utilities has been in frequent communication with the utility companies, and Patrick said in a press briefing that each utility company has submitted an emergency response plan.
“We have been in close contact with the national weather service, and are coordinating with MEMA, all of our state agencies and the utility companies to make sure we are ready for Hurricane Sandy’s potential impact here in the Commonwealth,” Patrick said.
After last year's storms – Hurricane Irene in August and the October snowstorm – left residents across the state powerless for days, the Department of Public Utilities met with the state's utility companies to ensure future emergency events would be met with adequate preparation and prompt service. These two broad requirements include making sure that enough crews are activated, tree removal plans to allow downed wires to be fixed are in place, that a vigorous communications plan is in place between the company and its customers and municipal and safety officials is activated, and that estimated times of restoration are accurately reported. In response to the meetings, the companies made a number of enhancements to their storm preparation processes and emergency response plans.
Attorney General Martha Coakley earlier this year sought fines totalling $30 million against National Grid, NSTAR and the Western Massachusetts Electric Company and is awaiting a ruling by the Department of Public Utilities on the matter. A storm response bill approved by the state legislature in July included language that would direct all future penalties paid by utilities back to impacted customers through rate credits.
The MBTA is also preparing for the arrival of adverse conditions on Monday with plans to deploy extra personnel and equipment throughout the system. Work crews will begin mobilizing on Sunday evening. For MBTA service updates or alerts, customers are urged to visit MBTA.com or follow the MBTA on Twitter @mbtaGM.
MEMA is encouraging residents to take the following steps in preparation for the storm:
- Make sure you have a well-stocked Family Disaster Kit in the event you lose power or are isolated for a number of days.
- Trim back trees and shrubbery around your home. Remove diseased or damaged tree limbs that could be blown down, causing damage, during a storm.
- Clear clogged rain gutters. This storm brings the potential for torrential rain. Providing clear drainage will help prevent misdirected flooding.
- Bring in outdoor items such as lawn furniture, trash barrels, hanging plants, toys and awnings that can be broken or picked up by strong winds and used as a missile.
- Make sure storage sheds, children’s playhouses or other outbuildings are securely anchored, either to a permanent foundation or with straps and ground anchors.
- Elevate articles in your basement that could be damaged from even minor flooding.
- Make temporary plywood covers to protect windows and sliding doors. Drill holes for screws or lag bolts in each cover and around each window. Note: Taping of windows does not prevent them from breaking.
- Keep your vehicles fully fueled.
- Have a certain amount of cash available. If power is lost, ATMs may not be working.
- Make a record of your personal property. Keep an itemized list of your furniture, clothing and valuables to assist adjusters in case of a claim. Back it up with photographs or video.
- Protect your insurance policies and other important documents in a secure place like a safe deposit box or a watertight box. Many people back up important documents online.
- Learn where gas pilots and water mains are located and how to safely shut off all utilities.
- Lock doors and windows to ensure that they are closed tight to help protect against strong winds and rain.
- Boat owners who plan on taking their vessel out of the water soon should consider doing so this weekend.
- Think about and plan for pets’ needs as well.
- Download the free ping4alert! app to your Smartphone to receive important weather alerts and messages from MEMA. Instructions are available at www.mass.gov/mema/mobileapp.
The Daily Voice will be updating the website regularly with local information before, during and after the storm.