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Friday, December 12, 2008

National Grid Failure Causes almost 1/2 Million houses and Businesses to loos Power in New York and New England

Snow and ice storms Thursday and Friday knocked out power to more than 700,000 homes and businesses in New York and New England, local utilities reported early Friday.

National Grid Plc had about 470,000 customers in New York and New England out of service, a spokesman said, saying it would take several days to restore power to all in both regions.

The breakdown for National Grid was about 295,000 in New England and 173,000 in eastern New York.

In New Hampshire, Northeast Utilities' Public Service Co of New Hampshire reported on its Website that 230,000 customers had no power early Friday.

PSNH, which serves almost 500,000 customers in New Hampshire, warned the number of outages could climb as additional icing and wind gusts continue to snap tree limbs, damaging power lines and equipment.

In Vermont, ISO New England, the regional grid operator, asked Entergy Corp to reduce the output of the 620-megawatt Vermont Yankee nuclear reactor from full power to about 82 percent early Friday and to stop transmitting power to Northfield, Massachusetts.

National Grid, headquartered in London, transmits and distributes power to about 3.1 million customers in New York and New England.

Northeast Utilities of Berlin, Connecticut, transmits and distributes electricity and natural gas to more than two million customers in New England.

A winter storm pounded New England with pouring rain, sleet and ice, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands across the region, closing schools and roads and prompting Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to declare a statewide state of emergency Friday.

Georgine Sparr, the manager of Flynn's Truck Stop in Shrewsbury, said her customers in central Massachusetts complained of downed trees covered in ice and flooded roads from the storm that began Thursday and moved by late Friday morning.

She fielded dozens of calls from people who woke up in the dark and wanted to know if the Dunkin' Donuts inside the truck stop was open so they could get a warm cup of coffee.

"They got hit with everything at one time, except the snow, thank goodness," Sparr said. "The trees are frozen. Up and down Route 20, there's branches everywhere."

Patrick said at a news conference that 350,000 customers across the state were without power -- and the number had risen 150,000 homes in just an hour. He said it would be "ambitious" to think power would be restored by Monday.

"This is not going to be a couple of hours," Patrick said. "It's likely to be several days."

The governor declared a state of emergency Friday morning, which enables him to move quickly to deal with the storm. At least 20 towns did the same locally.

Patrick mobilized 500 members of the National Guard to help clear roads and provide support.

There have been no reports of injuries related to the storm, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

"This is a really extreme situation we are experiencing," National Grid spokeswoman Jackie Barry said.

National Grid reported about 267,000 electric customers without power, mostly in the Worcester and Merrimack Valley areas, while Western Massachusetts Electric Co. put their outages at about 20,000 customers. Some towns, including Becket, Windsor, Cummington and Middlefield, experienced near blackout conditions.

"This is a really extreme situation we are experiencing," National Grid spokeswoman Jackie Barry said.

NStar, which serves mostly eastern Massachusetts, reported scattered outages of 7,000 customers. Eastern and southeastern Massachusetts, where temperatures were significantly higher, were getting rain and the National Weather Service declared a flood warning.

Towns with municipal utilities also reported losing power, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Ice collected on tree limbs, weighing them down until they snapped and came down on power lines, Judge said. The transmission lines themselves are were iced, Barry said.

"Some high-voltage lines affected are on rural rights of way in remote areas and we're not sure if we can even get to them," she said.

In Holden, which had no power, some senior citizens on oxygen were taken to the hospital or a shelter opened at the town's senior center.

"Stay home if you live in Holden, don't come to Holden if you work here," Holden fire Chief Jack Chandler said.

The nearby town of Sterling canceled school and also told residents to stay off the icy roads.

"It's terrible out there," police Chief Gary Chamberland said early Friday morning. "The main two arteries through town are impassable. We can't even get emergency personnel to work."

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