"Not eating chard. That's what all those weirdos eat at their stupid picnics on the Hungry Ghost lawn." -Nina

October 28, 2007

Downtown Northampton Suffers Fourth Power Outage In Fourteen Months

At approximately 11.50 am this Sunday morning, a large section of downtown Northampton lost power. According to National Grid, the power outage might have "been caused by a situation with an overhead power line."

UPDATE:: I have since heard unofficially from an official, that a tree being cut down by a resident had fallen on a power line.
UPDATE 10.29.07:: The Gazette has reported that "an Edwards Square resident caused a 90-minute power outage to a large part of downtown Sunday morning when a tree he was cutting down landed across a set of power lines. About 1,400 customers lost power at 11:50 a.m. along King Street from downtown north to about Finn Street, and from Main Street to Old South Street."

This is one of many outages that have affected the City and specifically downtown Northampton recently, and according to this article in the Gazette on December 06, 2006, Northampton had, at that date, suffered five power outages in the City since August of 06. Three of those effected the downtown area, which makes today's outage the fourth one since August of 2006 that has thrown business and traffic downtown into flux. Some restaurants were forced to close during what is for many, the busiest day of the week, missing out on quite a large volume of what was a busy brunch day during a warm and sunny afternoon downtown. Sylvesters Restaurant, for instance, was closed when I walked by at 1pm.

And as the photos above show, time stood still, police were dispatched to direct traffic, no movies were being rented at Pleasant St. Video, no coffee or cake was being served at La Fiorentina, and if you were hoping to pick up some toiletries or medicine at CVS, you were out of luck.

As the following articles from the Gazette reporting on recent power outages point out, there is much more than personal inconvenience or extremely unfortunate economic concerns to be worried out.

August 24, 2006, the Gazette reports on an outage, and writes that an emergency generator at the McDonald House, "...began emitting smoke and carbon monoxide triggered a fire alarm at the Joseph McDonald House on Old South Street. Firefighters evacuated about 40 of the building's residents, according to Jon Hite, executive director of the Northampton Housing Authority."

Just three months later, the Gazette again reported on yet another outage, which blacked out much of downtown, and left the McDonald House and the Walter Salvo House to operate with emergency generators.

Less than one month after that, on Dec. 06 2006, there is another outage, and the Gazette reports that "City officials have called for a meeting with National Grid after another power outage left more than 2,700 customers in the dark Tuesday morning - mostly in Florence. 'It's a public safety issue, number one," said Mayor Clare Higgins. "It's an issue of service, obviously.'"

An article one week later reported that (sub. req'd)

"Last week's power outage damaged a server in the basement of the Puchalski Municipal Building, causing a shutdown of intracity communications and problems for computer-based programs."The city's property damage insurance is expected to cover most of the costs to replace the damaged computer equipment, which one city official has estimated at less than $5,000. However, the city must pay a $1,000 deductible for the loss, said Joe M. Cook, the city's chief procurement officer.
On December 15, 2006 the Gazette again reports (sub. req'd) on the effects of the outages, which were aired during a "meeting between representatives of National Grid and business owners Thursday morning to discuss the string of recent blackouts that have plagued the city."
"We can't stop a car from hitting a pole, we can't stop a tree from falling," said Peter Normandin, superintendent of customer operations for the company. "But our general maintenance is right where it's supposed to be."...Meanwhile, business owners also said they had been still experiencing small blackouts as the power fluctuated in their buildings. At Herrell's, a breaker was tripping repeatedly, turning off a critical ice cream freezer, said co-owners Judy and Steve Herrell. Cafe Lebanon owners said that their brand-new appliances had also experienced electricity problems."

"...Many of the roughly 20 business owners at the meeting said such a response is coming too little, too late. Saying they had already lost thousands of dollars to previous blackouts, the owners asked for assurances that the lights would stay on during the critical holiday season, when retailers and restaurants often do the majority of their business."

"...Dan Yacuzzo, co-owner of Eastside Grill, said the blackouts in November alone had cost area retailers and restaurants approximately $350,000 in lost business. While the policy at National Grid is to honor claims for property losses, they do not honor business losses such as loss in revenue from a dip in business."We're expected to eat those bills we have because of the outages, and you're here to tell us you have a second feeder line," he said. "The timing is unacceptable ... Don't you understand it's easier to tell people up front what you're doing, rather than wait until the power goes out for the fourth time?"

"...Aleta Fazzone, vice president of business services for National Grid, repeatedly apologized, blaming the outages on "a little bit of Murphy's law." "We learned our lesson by what happened," she said.
A few days before these reports, on Dec. 9 2006, the Gazette reported that "National Grid executives met Friday at City Hall with Mayor Clare Higgins, the fire chief, and representatives from the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce" to discuss the recent power outages. According to this article, "Mayor Higgins said she told the company that the city is reserving its right to file a complaint with the state Department of Telecommunications and Energy, which regulates utilities, should more outages occur." I wonder if this recent outage, if indeed the fault of National Grid, will prompt the Mayor to follow up on that?

LABELS: downtown, infrastructure, utilities