National Grid, which supplies electricity and natural gas to the region, has been preparing for possible storm damage since last Monday, according to spokesman Patrick Stella. “If there’s a good thing about this particular kind of storm it’s that you can see it coming days in advance so you have time to bring those crews in.”
Stella says the company has brought in extra crews from as far away as Colorado and Michigan. “We have hundreds of line and tree crews in the area, basically staged centrally in the Albany area. We’re waiting to see what sort of damage is going to happen and where before we send them out.”
Staging such preparations can present a logistical nightmare. Stella says many National Grid employees not normally involved with line work have “storm assignments,” which means some drop what they’re doing and take on the task of finding hotel rooms for crews, and gathering food to be able to feed them all.
“At this point we’re trying to prepare for the worst,” says Stella. “We’re preparing for a very large storm system with a lot of wind, and making sure we have the resources in place to get power back as quickly as possible.”
Weather forecasters are predicting less rain and more wind for Saratoga. Sustained winds are expected to reach 30-40 miles an hour, while gusts could reach as high as 75 miles an hour in higher elevations. So at least for now, Stella says it’s the wind they’re most concerned about. “The wind causes damage by bringing trees down and hitting our lines.” Stella says that if you spotted a downed line, you should not approach it, but rather contact National Grid at (800) 867-5222.
A major concern for repair crews, other than downed lines, is personal generators. Since the major storm events of 2011, many more people in the region have purchased back-up generators for their homes and offices. And Stella says those generators, if not used properly, can present a real threat to repair crews. “We always tell people to make sure the main circuit breaker in the house is off. If you don’t, the generator could run electricity back through the lines,” endangering crews.
National Grid also supplies natural gas to the region, but Stella says gas usually isn’t a problem during such events because most of the lines are buried underground. An exception he says was the storm damage last year along the Mohawk, where gas lines were running along the locks that were severely damaged. He says those lines have now been buried under the river.
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