Officials: Parts of RI could lose power for days

Bucket trucks can't be used when winds top 35 mph

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island officials are warning residents to be prepared for the possibility of several days without electricity as a major blizzard approaches the region.

“We need to be prepared for a multiday event, with two to three feet of accumulation, and potentially to be without power for days,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said Monday during a State House news conference about storm preparations. “We can’t do enough.”

Raimondo said she is particularly concerned about possible power outages along the coast and in South County. “Be prepared for being without electricity for several days,” she said. “This is a major winter storm.”

Dan Bunszell, National Grid’s vice president of New England operations, said the blizzard was shaping up to be “a storm of historic proportions and an extremely dangerous one.”

Tim Horan, National Grid’s president for Rhode Island, said its utility workers cannot go up in their bucket trucks if winds top 35 miles per hour due to safety concerns, and forecasters are predicting winds as high as 60 to 70 miles per hour during the storm.

National Grid has called in roughly 1,000 crews from other parts of the country to deal with the storm, Horan said, including more than 600 line crews and more than 300 tree crews. The utility is staging them at the Community College of Rhode Island campus in Warwick and at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, he said.

Horan said sustained winds are the biggest problem he’s expecting from the blizzard when it comes to causing outages. The utility’s storm response will be managed from its New England Emergency Operations Center in Northborough, Massachusetts, in coordination with local offices.

Officials urged residents to stockpile an adequate supply of fuel, batteries, water and nonperishable food items, and to charge their mobile devices. Emergency shelters will open once the travel ban is lifted, according to the governor.

“I can’t change the weather pattern,” Raimondo said. “What I can do is ask every Rhode Islander and every Rhode Island business to get prepared today.”

National Grid has “added preparations and procedures for snow clearing” since the February 2013 blizzard, Horan said. “We learn from every storm,” he said.

Officials also asked residents to comply with Rhode Island’s statewide travel ban and municipal parking bans, partly to allow plow crews to clean up affected areas so utility crews can reach them.

Residents who experience a power outage should contact National Grid at 800-322-3223, NSTAR at 800-592-2000, or the Pascoag Utility District at 401-568-6222.

National Grid released the following tips for staying safe during a power outage:

• Never touch downed power lines. If you see one, immediately contact emergency management crews.

• If you lose power, turn off all appliances, but keep one light on to know when power is turned back on.

• Operate generators outdoors, but before operating, disconnect from National Grid’s system. Failure to do so could put line crews and the public in danger.

• Check on elderly family members and neighbors who may need assistance.

Below, Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt says power outages are her biggest concern as the snow begins to fall:

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