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  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph

    From right, Eric Madson, James VanOudenhove and Randy Rudolph watch as broken tree limbs are trimmed from power-lines in Litchfield, Wednesday afternoon. Madson and Rudolph are damage assessors for PSNH while VanOudenhove is a Safety and Methods Supervisor.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph

    Eric Madson drives from PSNH's Hudson satellite location at Wal-mart to Litchfield to assess the damage done to power lines in Litchfield from this past weekend's snowstorm.
  • Staff photo by GRANT MORRIS

    Facebook - Grant Morris of the Nashua Telegraph

    A K-Line Contruction worker removes snapped tree branches from power-lines, Wednesday afternoon in Litchfield.
Thursday, November 3, 2011

Advance force speeds work of PSNH crews

HUDSON – If your electricity is still out, it may feel like line crews are moving at a snail’s pace. But it could be slower still if not for guys like PSNH employees Randy Rudolph and Eric Madson.

The two men, who normally work at PSNH power plants, shift to damage assessment during “storm duty,” secondary roles all PSNH employees have to speed up restoration efforts after a bad storm.

The little-known role of damage assessors is a vital one to ensure line crews work more efficiently and more quickly to get power restored.

“You’re really trying to get out there ahead of them and be their eyesight,” Rudolph said. “You’re really trying to paint them a picture.”

On Wednesday, Rudolph and Madson were getting their marching orders from the satellite command center set up at the Walmart on Lowell Road in Hudson. It was their job to take some of the thousands of reports of downed lines and utility poles being called in by customers, find where the trouble spots are and analyze them to figure out what’s wrong.

That was a fairly easy task at one of their stops Wednesday on McQuesten Circle in Litchfield. Just off Pinecrest Road, a pole had snapped a few feet from the top. The upper sections were tangled in some tree branches and still attached to power lines.

With a line crew down the road and breathing down their necks, Rudolph and Madson were on McQuesten Circle, examining the broken pole, taking down information about what type and size pole it was, what circuit it was attached to and trying to identify what type of equipment and supplies the line crew would need to get it back in working order.

The advantage to having the teams of damage assessors doing that work as a sort of advance scouting force for the line crews, is that line crews know what they need to bring to each of the 1,600 trouble spots that the Oct. 29 snowstorm created, said PSNH spokesman Michael Skelton. The alternative is that line crews show up, figure out what they need to make the fix, get those supplies to the site and then begin the repair.

“It’s instead of them coming out, figuring out what they need, getting it and then doing the repair,” Madson said.

This storm created a lot of problems like the one on McQuesten Circle – broken poles. Replacing those is time-consuming, said PSNH safety coordinator Jim VanOudenhove .

Between checking with Dig Safe, then boring a new hole, placing a new pole and either transferring the equipment from the old pole to the new one or installing all new equipment, the job can take upwards of six hours, he said.

“The broken poles are the most time-consuming to repair,” Skelton said. “It’s a very labor-intensive piece of infrastructure. It just takes time, and it’s complicated.”

That’s part of the reason the restoration in Nashua is taking as long as it is. The storm broke 27 utility poles, an unusually high number for one storm, Skelton said.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or Also follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).