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  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Facebook Don Himsel at The Telegraph


    Walter Merrill is upset over the lack of attention given to the Lancashire Heights neighborhood after the weekend storm. He and others were without power Wednesday afternoon.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Facebook- Don Himsel at The Telegraph


    Some people living in the Lancashire Heights neighborhood in Nashua aren't happy with the power restoration efforts.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Facebook- Don Himsel at The Telegraph


    Some people living in the Lancashire Heights neighborhood in Nashua aren't happy with the power restoration efforts.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Facebook- Don Himsel at The Telegraph


    Some people living in the Lancashire Heights neighborhood in Nashua aren't happy with the power restoration efforts.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Facebook- Don Himsel at The Telegraph


    Some people living in the Lancashire Heights neighborhood in Nashua aren't happy with the power restoration efforts.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom


    Bundled in her winter jacket, Sunnie Liu and Chris Kersey share a lighter moment in the cold kitchen at the Zheng Garden restaurant in Hudson Wednesday, November 2, 2011. Power has been out since last Saturday, when a winter storm downed trees and knocked out power to much of southern New Hampshire. The restaurant is operating on generator power, but without heat.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

PSNH customers still waiting for signs of the cavalry

NASHUA – Coleridge and Spenser are dead English poets.

Coleridge and Spencer are dead ends in Nashua – just two of several city roads that on late Wednesday afternoon remained impassable because of downed utility poles and wires.

Four days after the October storm that knocked out electrical power to more than two-thirds of the city, Public Service of New Hampshire crews still were unseen by residents in many parts of Nashua, despite the utility’s assurances it had intensified efforts here.

“I haven’t seen one truck anywhere. Are they underground?” said Jackie Comeau as she looked at a fallen telephone pole that blocked traffic on Spencer Drive, at its intersection with Coleridge Road in the Lancashire Heights neighborhood on the city’s south side.

Aside from orange safety cones, residents had placed two white lawn chairs near the pole as a precaution. Still, a few cars approached the pole before stopping at the last minute and then reversing direction.

Comeau lives on nearby Turnbridge Drive and has had no electricity since Saturday night, when heavy snow sent trees, wires and poles tumbling. She said she has driven around Nashua and had yet to see a utility truck.

Not far from the broken pole on Spencer Drive, two utility wires stretched across part of the asphalt of Peele Road and came to rest in a yard on Bryant Road.

Near the top of Lancashire Heights, on Lille Road, Walter Merrill walked outside for fresh air and to relieve what he said was frustration from not getting any answers from PSNH or city officials. Merrill had reached a fourth straight day without electricity, depending on a gasoline generator and wondering when the cavalry would arrive.

“It’s Wednesday afternoon and I haven’t seen a soul,” he said.

Merrill said calls to PSNH led to recorded messages. And a call to a city of Nashua hotline produced a message about PSNH working hard, the postponement of Halloween and the cancellation of school, he said.

Several other residents have called or e-mailed The Telegraph to similarly complain about PSNH not being visible. And not just Lancashire Heights had problems. Many streets on the north side of Nashua were still blocked in some way by debris or wires, residents said.

A PSNH spokesman said the utility sympathizes with customers and is working as quickly as possible to restore hard-hit Nashua and its outlying towns.

“We absolutely understand our customers’ frustration,” PSNH spokesman Michael Skelton said. “We hope they know crews are working as hard as they can.”

Post-storm analysis will illustrate that Saturday’s snow caused significant damage and was unprecedented, Skelton said.

The Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakley, said she will petition the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities to investigate that state’s utility companies’ responses to the storm because of a number of customer complaints received by her office.

Coakley said she wants the state to investigate the companies’ restoration efforts, including whether they were prepared for the storm and their communication with local officials and customers during the restoration process, according to a statement she released Wednesday.

The late October storm severed power for as many as 237,000 PSNH customers, the peak number Sunday. It caused 1,600 trouble spots statewide, Skelton said, and in Nashua, 27 utility poles broke.

As of Wednesday night, more than 213,000 PSNH customers had their power restored, but more than 53,000 still remained in the dark.

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, 15,695 of PSNH’s 40,028 customers in Nashua were without electricity.

But on that day, the Nashua region had become the focal point for PSNH, and the utility had 240 crews in the area, Skelton said.

PSNH estimates that at some point Friday, 99 percent of customers in Nashua, Hudson, Merrimack, Brookline, Hollis, Amherst and other area towns will have electricity again.

On Wednesday night, 38 percent of PSNH’s Amherst customers lacked power; it was 11 percent in Brookline, 59 percent in Hollis, 51 percent in Hudson, 42 percent in Litchfield, 44 percent in Merrimack and 8 percent in Mont Vernon.

A PSNH crew or utility workers on loan from other states, have to visit every one of the 1,600 trouble spots, Skelton said. Work could take one hour or six hours, and it could restore power to one customer or hundreds, he said.

For instance, a transformer that supplied electricity to Fairgrounds Middle School needed replacing, and it took six hours to finish that task, he said. The end result returned power to only one customer – the school – but it will benefit a large number of students, he said.

The storm produced a “tremendous” amount of debris, Skelton said. PSNH and affiliated crews had to remove the debris and assess damage, aside from actual restoration work, he said.

Lille Road resident Don Batkins finally broke down Wednesday and bought an $800 gas generator. It wasn’t so much that Batkins and his wife, Linda, couldn’t withstand a day or two more of no electricity, it was the strong possibility long power outages will occur again this winter, he said.

“I’m not really mad,” Batkins said. “I can understand. I can realize … how many people are on duty.”

What bothers him is PSNH has reduced its work force and can’t respond as well as it had in the past, he said.

Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-6528 or amckeon@nashuatelegraph.com. Also check out McKeon (@Telegraph_AMcK) on Twitter.