Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Friday, November 4, 2011

It's Gotten Really Old

These past six days, in Sturbridge, after the Nor' Easter has been anything but a wonderland.  The snow took the fully leafed out trees and broke them so badly that as of Thursday, Novemeber 3rd, they are still picking up the pieces, and will be for some time.  Shattered trees are one thing, its the problems those broken trees cause that is what we have been battling ever since, and the most severe of those has been the broken power lines.

There has been enough written on this subject in the papers over the past week, I know, but I need to vent. 

First of all, there are a number of roads that come and out of town that are priority roads.  Roads for major traffic, commuting, emergency vehicles such as ambulances from other towns going to Harrington Hospital. Route 20, Route 131, Route 49, and Route 148 are all state roads, and are priority roads.  Their integrity must be assured at all times.

Now, will someone tell me what the heck happened on Route 148?  No one even began to work on the downed lines until Wednesday, four days after the storm.  The tree debris was still in the road, a plastic jersey barrier put our on Tuesday, and not one National Grid truck was there to deal with the massive damage on that road from the I-90 bridge to Warren Road.

Not one.  For four days.

The day that the president of National Grid stopped by to see how things were going was when I followed a convoy of National Grid, and out of state trucks from the Host Hotel, where we were staying, to our home on Brookfield Road.  It was eight o'clock in the morning as two or three pickup trucks, and several bucket trucks slowly made their way up route 148, past our darkened, and frozen house to the scene of the damage a mile away.  This was on Thursday, five days after  the snow.

Five days after the snow.

We can blame outdated priority lists that National Grid was relying on, and we can blame poor communication as well, but those excuses can only go so far.  It was up to those in our town with the geographical knowledge, the up to date priority knowledge, and the most accurate damage assessment to communicate the immediate needs to National Grid.

We can not expect those unfamiliar with our town, and all the damage out there, to perform the repairs in a timely, and efficient manner without inside information.

We can blame National Grid for not being more aggresive in seeking the information, but our town has to shoulder some of the blame as well.  The police, local, and state, the selectmen, and others in town were well aware of the damage in town, and the priority each area held.  That information, apparently,  was not communicated well to the National Grid, and if it was, it was not acted on.

How can a state numbered highway like Route 148 be overlooked for five days, but Wallace Road, and New Boston Road can have multiple crews on them?

I am not bitter.  We froze like everyone else.  We sat by the fireplace, ate cold sandwiches, and sat in the dark day after day.  We finally went to the Host Hotel on Wednesday, and hoped that the power would be on again on Thursday. The work crews on the side of the road told me it would be.  When I left for work at 5:30 PM Thursday afternoon, it wasn't, and the family went to the hotel for one more night.

They had had enough.  Everyone has.

Obviously we need a different approach to theses disasters.  We need an up to date Priority List, and that list needs to be in the hands of the utility companies ASAP.  We need a permanent team on the ground here in town that speaks the language of those in National Grid, and can help direct those technicians to the areas that need repair first.  National Grid will in turn repair what they can in the order that the grid allows them to do so.

Communication failed.  It failed very badly.  What was being reported was not being given to the right people, at the right time, in the right format, and as a result we all had to endure too many dark nights in the cold.

Don't allow this to happen again.  Develop a plan, appoint a Disater Assesment Team, and develop a communication plan that will expediate the resoration of power in the future.

Now, it is 5:30 AM on Friday morning, and I am at work 60 miles east of Sturbridge, and I have no idea if my house has power yet.  I am hoping it does.  I'm tired, and will be home in a few hours, and this sleeping with gloves on has gotten really old.

Addendum:  At approximately 1:35 PM 11/4/2011 the power was restored to Brookfield Road.


  1. "We can blame outdated priority lists that National Grid was relying on" -- Wouldn't/Shouldn't they have noticed this during the two previous natural disasters the region suffered earlier this year? It's not like the tornado didn't go through a good part of the same region ...

  2. Apparently the lists were noted to be out of date when Hurricane Irene came through, and were to be revised.

  3. According to WBZ News East Brookfield confronted National Grid with a lot of outdated information on the lists. The location of their police department had changed six years earlier, and they did not have any idea where the town water works were to ensure a constant water supply for the town. This old information will be similar to other towns int he region, and must be updated as changes occur, and minimally every year.

  4. Breakneck residentSaturday, November 05, 2011

    Seven full days after the storm and there are houses without power on Breakneck Rd., mine included. The National Grid customer service office is not taking calls, and the website simply keeps adding a day to the estimated return of service date after each day without power goes by. This is unbelievable.

    One full week now without power? It took six days before any power crews were seen on Breakneck Rd, but for three days tree service crews cut a few limbs and disappeared until the next day. Each day they cut a few more limbs and were not seen again until the following day. The power crew neglected to ensure the whole road had power, they simply left to their comfortable heated rooms at various Sturbridge hotels. Nothing like looking at most of your neighbors with power after 7 nights... No poles are down, no lines are down... so why no power for us?

    I have not seen one power crew working past 5pm, so much for a 24 hour storm response...

    This is becoming a disturbing trend here in Sturbridge, long delays in power restoration. Perhaps there will be some upkeep on clearing the trees away from power lines, then again I doubt it.

    Thanks National Grid for the last 7 days with no power... And thanks for sending my electric bill to me in the dark.

  5. I couldn't believe how our town leadership quite literally left us in the dark on the status of the repairs. I got more accurate, up to date information from the BT's Smokehouse Facebook Page than anywhere else during the 8 days I was without power. The town didn't hesitate to use the Reverse 911 a week earlier to tell me a storm was coming when I could look out the window and see the snow for myself. Yet there wasn't a peep out of the Reverse 911 system when we could have used it the most.


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