Shrewsbury rebounds quickly from storm

By Jeff Malachowski/Staff Writer, Shrewsbury Chronicle
Nov 01, 2011

SHREWSBURY — While many residents in central Massachusetts towns are still in the dark after this weekend’s Halloween snowstorm, only a handful of Shrewsbury residents were without power as of Tuesday morning.

Shrewsbury Electric and Cable Operations Marketing Manager Jackie Pratt said as of Tuesday morning only 50 homes in town were without power.  Pratt said SELCO crews, as well as crews from Taunton and Norwich, Conn. were working throughout the day Tuesday in an effort to restore everyone’s power by the end of the day.

“In this business there are no guarantees, but it does look very promising,” Pratt said of restoring power to the remaining 50 homes in town.  “There’s been a lot of improvements.”

At the height of the storm Saturday night, close to 2,700 homes in Shrewsbury lost power.  The Millwood Manor Pond neighborhood was particularly hard hit with power outages, said Pratt.

Due to the power outages over the weekend, school was cancelled on Monday.

Pratt said being a municipal electric company has several benefits, including having a strong relationship with other local municipal electric companies, such as Taunton and Norwich.

During Hurricane Irene, Pratt said Taunton and Norwich were hit hard with power outages and SELCO sent crews to help the two cities restore power to homes and businesses quicker.

“They’re returning the favor to us now,” Pratt said.

Having a municipally run electric company also allows the town to attack power outages quicker and in a more efficient manner as SELCO’s crews live locally and know the ins-and-outs of the town’s electrical system.

“It’s really beneficial,” Pratt said.  “We have such knowledge with these crews.  They know every mile of wire.”

While SELCO crews were busy Saturday night and throughout the weekend, Fire Chief Jim Vuona said fire crews were also busy with downed trees and wires Saturday night.

Vuona said the department received between 35 and 40 emergency calls for downed trees and wires and car accidents Saturday night, up from the department’s normal average of 10 emergency calls each night.

“The night shift was especially busy,” Vuona said.

Vuona characterized the tree damage as similar to the 2008 ice storm and said fire crews spent much of the weekend helping remove downed trees and limbs.

“Our guys were out there with the chainsaws trying to free up the roads,” Vuona said.  “There’s a significant amount of damage, but it was mostly trees and wires.  The heavy weight of the snow sticking to the trees with the leaves on them is not a situation you see.”     

Vuona warned residents without power to not use generators inside homes, garages and crawl spaces as deadly levels of carbon monoxide can build up and linger for hours even after the generator has been shut off, causing severe injury or death.

Despite this weekend’s snowstorm, skiers will not be able to hit the slopes at the Ski Ward yet, as Jen Anderson of Ski Ward said there is not yet enough snow to allow skiers on the slopes.

Anderson said officials at Ski Ward are aiming to open the facility around Thanksgiving.