There are numerous power outages still reported throughout central and southern New Hampshire, but Waterville Valley remained relatively unscathed by Sandy. Waterville did lose power yesterday at around 5 p.m., but it was restored by midnight. Some small trees and limbs down. Brooks and rivers are running high. Check out this photo taken by Nichole from Boulder Path!
NH Electric Cooperative works to keep lights on
By PAULA TRACY
New Hampshire Union Leader
PLYMOUTH — Steve Wood sat Monday behind a control desk at New Hampshire Electric Cooperative headquarters in Plymouth, managing power outages in Lyme, Campton and Waterville Valley.
Like an air traffic controller, Wood had 85 crews from Colebrook to Raymond dealing with the damage done by Hurricane Sandy.
Another 30 crews from Illinois were expected by morning to relieve weary crews. Seventeen contracted tree crews were also at the ready to be deployed.
Wood, operations supervisor for the member-owned utility was about halfway through his first 12-hour storm shift. Blinking lights and colored screens kept him busy. A constant “ding” from a computer was indicating more reported outages.
According to the co-op’s website, 12,429 of the co-op’s 83,000 members were out of power at 5:20 p.m., with scattered outages mostly due to wind-swept limbs breaking lines. The worst was 58,000 out in February, 2010, and Wood was not hoping for a repeat.
“It’s bad down south,” he remarked. Crews in the co-op’s Raymond district reported they were backing off because the conditions were too dangerous.
Safety is a call made in the field, said John Ducsai, control center supervisor. At some point in the height of the storm, it makes no sense trying to repair a line just to have another limb come down and destroy the hours of work put in. And there are only so many poles and transformers in reserve.
Ducsai spent the previous hours preparing for the storm and finding, among other things, 60 hotel rooms and catering to the needs of the Illinois crews coming in.
They will join with the co-op’s line crew and work 16 hours on and eight hours off to restore power, Wood worked for years as a lineman in Wolfeboro and said the experience is crucial to understanding what it likely going on in the field. From a mouse pad on his desk he can turn off and turn on power.
“It is dangerous work,” he said.
The co-op encourages its members to call and speak to someone if they are without power to ensure that the utility knows power is out. When they assume someone else has called, they can be wrong.
For example, Wood’s computer showed there were 90 houses without power in Waterville Valley, yet only two had called in the outage.
The co-op is moving to a new system which will tell them who is without power without having customers call.
Wood said the co-op will not leave its members without power to go serve another area.
With the storm hitting 16 states, there will be a lot of people needing line crews, but “we don’t leave ’til everyone is back up.” Wood said. “We’ve got to be cleaned up here,” before they go help in another region.