As Hurricane Sandy swirls about 500 miles off the Georgia coast, North Country electric power distributor National Grid says it has begun preparing for the possibility of high winds, heavy rains and the potential for power interruptions at the start of next week.
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today declared a state of emergency in New York in preparation for the potential impact. A state of emergency mobilizes resources to local governments that otherwise are restricted to state use only and suspends regulations that would impede rapid response.
The storm has killed nearly 30 people as it traversed Caribbean islands earlier this week.
The National Weather Service and other agencies are warning communities in the area that might be affected that the storm’s track could make things difficult for them early next week, including in the North Country.
Although the path of the storm will be clearer as time goes on, utility crew assignments are being developed and equipment readied in anticipation of severe weather.
National Grid says it has invested more than $1.5 billion dollars in strengthening its upstate New York electric distribution infrastructure in the past five years.
“Our first concern is the safety of the public and our employees,” said Kenneth Daly, National Grid President for New York State.
“We have been tracking Sandy very closely over the past several days, and preparedness plans are being developed to make sure our crews are ready to respond as quickly and safely as possible,” Daly said.
The company said it has taken steps to prepare for the possibility of service interruptions, such as:
• Contacting contractors with whom they regularly work for storm support
• Planning to bring in additional outside crews, if needed, over the weekend
• Preparing to implement their incident command system to coordinate preparation and restoration efforts throughout the event
• Continuous monitoring of the storm and positioning resources to best respond to storm outages
• Provide public updates when necessary.
The company has already reached out to emergency management officials across upstate New York to discuss storm preparation and service restoration plans.
Municipal officials have been contacted throughout the region to keep them updated on preparations and to provide contact and safety information that can be passed along to constituents in the event of severe damage from the winds.
National Grid provides a number of channels for customers to learn about service issues and interruptions during storms. Customers can receive text message alerts and updates through a free service the company offers. Text the word STORM to NGRID (64743) to sign up for the service. E-mail alerts are also available to customers who create an online profile on the company’s website. National Grid also provides storm and restoration updates through Facebook and Twitter.
National Grid is advising customers to be prepared for service interruptions, with some familiar suggestions.
It’s a good idea to have a number of working flashlights, at least one battery-operated radio and an extra supply of batteries in your home. A radio is a good way to stay in touch.
National Grid’s emergency outage reporting number is (800) 867-5222.
National Grid provides real-time outage information, including the option to report an outage, at www.nationalgridus.com in the Outage Central section of the company web pages.
Here are some more tips:
• Never touch downed power lines, and always assume that any fallen lines are live electric wires. If you see one, report it immediately to National Grid or your local emergency response organization.
• If you use a generator to supply power during an outage, be sure to only operate it outdoors. Before operating generators, 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 jeopardize crew safety.
• If you lose power, turn off any appliances that were on when the power went off, but leave one light on so you will know when power is restored.
• Power problems can sometimes interrupt public water supply systems or disable well pumps, so it’s an especially good idea to keep a supply of bottled drinking water handy, as well as some canned food.
• People who depend on electric-powered life support equipment, such as a respirator, should let National Grid know. To register as a life support customer, call the company’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-642-4272.
• National Grid customers who experience outages should call National Grid’s outage line at 1-800-867-5222 immediately to expedite restoration.
• Check on elderly family members, neighbors and others who may need assistance during an outage period.