Field workers facing gale-force winds, whiteout conditions, impassable roads to reach extensive, ongoing storm damage
Submitted by National Grid
National Grid’s crews are facing extremely treacherous weather conditions as they work to safely clean up extensive debris, repair damage and restore power as the result of the ongoing, powerful blizzard that is expected to continue to pummel portions of Western New York through Sunday. The multi-day blizzard, which is being called a “once-in-a-generation storm,” is bringing whiteout conditions, damaging wind gusts approaching 80 mph, and additional power outages, particularly in areas off Lake Erie.
“Our crews have been restoring power since early Friday morning where conditions allow; however, due to the unprecedented severity of this storm, we are not able to safely travel and reach all of the damage,” said Matt Barnett, National Grid’s vice president of New York electric operations. “We are working closely with local officials, first responders, the Department of Transportation and other key emergency response personnel to coordinate our restoration efforts. Safety remains our top priority for our employees and our customers.”
National Grid has mobilized a field force of more than 3,100 workers across upstate New York, including assistance from as far away as Canada, Iowa, Texas and Oklahoma, to support storm response. As of 3 p.m., the company has restored power to 130,000 of the nearly 168,000 impacted customers across its service area.
In Western New York, more than 55,000 of the 91,000 impacted customers have had their service restored. Hardest-hit counties include Erie, Niagara and Orleans. Due to the ongoing blizzard, gale-force winds and extensive system damage, combined with the unsafe travel conditions – including impassable and closed roads – detailed restoration estimates for customers who remain without service will be provided once the storm subsides, and a thorough damage assessment can be completed.
The company expects that some outages in the hardest-hit areas, such as the City of Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Albion and Batavia, could last longer than 48 hours after the storm subsides. An additional challenge to restoring electricity service in many Buffalo-area neighborhoods is that power is delivered by poles and wires in backyards. This type of restoration requires line workers to manually carry in repair equipment and ladders because the backyards can’t be accessed by utility vehicles.
In the meantime, crews will continue to work around the clock to restore power as quickly and safely as possible in challenging conditions.
A list of available warming centers can be found by clicking on the warming shelter icon on National Grid's Outage Central map.
The Restoration Process
When it is safe to do so, the company’s first priority is to ensure the safety of our customers and our crews by clearing away dangers such as live, downed power lines. Next come repairs to the facilities that serve the largest number of customers such as main transmission facilities, followed by recovery work at local substations and repairs to neighborhood circuits, transformers and service wires. Click here to learn more about the company’s restoration process.
Estimated Restoration Times
√ In the early stages of a storm, restoration times on National Grid’s Outage Central site may be listed as “assessing conditions.” This is because debris, such as trees, tree limbs and downed wires, must be cleared away so that infrastructure damage can be assessed and restoration plans can be executed.
√ It's normal for outage numbers and ETRs to fluctuate. The numbers can go up and down as we de- energize lines to make conditions safe for repairs. Additionally, there could be new outages that occur as the strong, damaging winds and snow continue.
√ Outage Central Reminder: Our Outage Central page shows the estimated time of restoration for communities, and reflects the estimated time for the last customer in that community to have power restored. The most accurate way for customers to check on the power restoration estimate for their specific address is to log into our “Report or Check Outage” page.
Customers are reminded to remain aware of potential safety hazards such as damaged trees, particularly broken limbs that haven’t yet fallen to the ground. As always, customers are reminded to keep safety a priority by avoiding downed wires. All wires should be considered live and should be immediately reported to National Grid at 1-800-867-5222 or by calling 911.
√ If a power outage occurs, customers can notify National Grid online to expedite restoration.
√ Generators used to supply power during an outage must be operated outdoors to prevent the buildup of deadly carbon monoxide. Before operating a generator, be sure to disconnect from National Grid’s system by shutting off the main breaker, located in the electric service panel. Failure to do this could endanger our crews and your neighbors.
√ Customers who depend on electrically powered life support equipment, such as a respirator, should register as a life support customer by calling National Grid at 1-800-642-4272. In a medical emergency, always dial 911.
√ Please use caution when driving near emergency responders and crews restoring power.
√ Be sure to check on elderly family members, neighbors and others who may need assistance during an outage.
Safety Near Downed Power Lines
√ Stay away from downed power lines and wires; use caution if one is nearby, and always assume that they are carrying live electricity.
√ Never touch a person or an object that is in contact with a downed line, as electricity can pass through to you.
√ Take caution when approaching fallen trees, which could have power lines caught in them.
√ Remember that water can conduct electricity. If you see a line down in a puddle or flooded area, avoid contact with the water to prevent risk of shock.
Learn more about downed power line safety at our website.
The company also offers the following important safety reminders for customers and snow removal contractors who are clearing snow near electricity and gas equipment.
•Snow and ice accumulation on roofs can place a burden on electricity service wires – also known as the weatherhead – that bring energy into the home.
These wires are live and are a potential hazard to anyone attempting to clear snow.
As snow and ice are removed, inspect the connection point from a safe distance to be sure that it hasn’t been pulled away from the house, which would create a potential fire hazard.
National Grid also reminds home and building owners to be especially cautious as they work to clear snow and ice by following these safety recommendations:
√ Stay at least 10 feet away from overhead power lines at all times.
√ Keep all ladders, shovels, roof rakes and other devices well clear of any lines coming from the street to the structure, regardless of the material the equipment is made from. In extremely wet conditions, even wood can conduct electricity.
√ Start clearing snow from the opposite end of the roof from the service point where electricity is delivered.
√ The buildup of ice and snow around or over natural gas meters, regulators and pipes can pose a serious safety risk. Ice and snow falling from a roof can damage gas meters or service connections to customers’ homes or businesses, resulting in potential gas leaks. Customers should take immediate action if a natural gas leak is suspected:
Get out – All occupants should leave the house immediately. Do not use the telephone, light switches or automatic garage door openers for any reason.
Call us – After leaving the house and reaching a safe environment, call National Grid’s 24-hour gas emergency number: 1-800-892-2345.
Stay out – Don’t return to your home until National Grid tells you it is safe to do so.
√ Cleared snow should never be piled around vents. A blocked vent can lead to the buildup of deadly carbon monoxide.
•The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are similar to those of the flu, and can include headaches, weakness, confusion, chest tightness, skin redness, dizziness, nausea, sleepiness, heart fluttering or loss of muscle control. If you suspect carbon monoxide is present in your home, immediately go outside and breathe deeply. Then call 911.
•When clearing snow, customers and snow removal contractors should be aware of the location of natural gas equipment to avoid coming into contact with meters, hitting outside gas risers, or piling snow around vents mounted on the outside of buildings.
Stay Informed and Connected
√ Customers with active electricity accounts who text REG to 64743 can have personalized alerts sent to them via text, email or phone call when we detect an outage on their property.
√ Customers also can text OUT to 64743 to report an outage.
√ For real-time power outage information, online outage reporting, and in-depth storm safety information, visit National Grid’s Outage Central website. Customers who create an online profile also can sign up for email alerts.
√ Customers can read the latest company news, check outage status and report an outage by using the National Grid app.
√ Visit our website: www.nationalgridus.com, follow us on Twitter and friend us on Facebook.