Fourth of July flooding devastates upstate NY communities

By Kathy Hill

“That Saturday evening, hundreds of homes in our village were decimated by a flood that displaced hundreds that day, with waters that destroyed furnaces, hot water heaters, and electrical panels, leaving people without the basics required to stay in their home. Second only to the firefighters, National Grid representatives were there in what seemed as little as minutes. …”

– Patrick O’Connor, Mayor, on the July 1 flooding in the Village of Whitesboro

 

 

Think you know just how far National Grid people are “here with you, here for you”?

When heavy rains hit upstate New York’s Mohawk Valley and Hoosick Falls – in our Central and Eastern divisions – the weekend leading up to Independence Day, flooding primarily affected the Village of Whitesboro and a few pockets around Utica, Clinton, New Hartford, and Yorkville, in Oneida County. In all, flooding significantly damaged more than 700 homes – and made nearly 20 permanently uninhabitable.

At the peak, about 275 National Grid gas customers and about 180 electricity customers were without service. Calling in additional crews, we were able to complete repairs to our affected equipment by July 4, restoring all customers whose equipment and appliances were then ready to take service.

Anyone who thought we would stop there doesn’t know our commitment to our neighbors and the communities we serve.

Hundreds of National Grid employees – some whose own homes had been impacted by the flooding – responded to help. Taking a page from our similarly comprehensive responses in the aftermaths of Hurricane Irene/Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, Superstorm Sandy in 2012, and previous Mohawk Valley flooding in 2013, our team:

  • Went door-to-door inspecting services and appliances for safety and providing residents with information on safety measures needed before their service could be safely restored
  • Contributed to emergency response coordination by local fire and public safety officials, and participated in morning briefings
  • Implemented a temporary process enabling us to immediately reconnect all customers who were ready, ensuring that no customers went without service while waiting for the required New York State electric service inspection
  • Provided $100 grants to cover the costs associated with the inspection (funded through National Grid’s Corporate Citizenship community giving program)
  • In Whitesboro, joined by the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and local emergency responders, we secured a location and operated an area command center, where we distributed dry ice, water and restoration information to the public
  • Conducted extensive additional customer outreach via news and social media, and made outbound calls to help affected customers safely prepare for service reconnection
  • Voluntarily suspended collections and late payment charges for 30 days, and worked to stop billing for customers unable to reconnect service
  • Leveraged our existing energy efficiency and economic development programs as applicable to help customers purchase new appliances and help business customers make repairs
  • Worked with and supported local officials and agencies as long as they were needed

 
“Throughout this event and the ongoing recovery, we saw how our people really came through, and how much customers and community leaders both needed and welcomed National Grid’s presence,” said Alberto Bianchetti, Customer & Community manager. “We’re all grateful we were able to move quickly to help customers return to their homes and businesses as soon as safely possible.”

Noting how the company’s many teams have honed a coordinated rapid response from the experiences of previous major emergencies, Bianchetti added, “It is always nice to hear the praise from local officials for our support – but there’s nothing better than seeing we made a difference helping our customers get back on their feet in what was probably one of their darkest times.”

 

National Grid Recognized for Response

In a recent letter to the Public Service Commission, Village of Whitesboro Mayor Patrick O’Connor wrote:

An overwhelming amount of people that receive National Grid service will never need anything beyond turning service on or off, and I sincerely hope that is the extent, because that’s easy.  I, and the residents of the Village of Whitesboro, were not so fortunate on July 1st of this year.

That Saturday evening, hundreds of homes in our village were decimated by a flood that displaced hundreds that day, with waters that destroyed furnaces, hot water heaters, and electrical panels, leaving people without the basics required to stay in their home.  Second only to the firefighters, National Grid representatives were there in what seemed as little as minutes. They worked around the clock to make all of the homes in our village safe until homeowners could begin clean-up.  First thing the next morning, a contingent of reps. from National Grid began going door-to-door to not only assist, but to educate all, every single one, of our residents as to the process that needed to be undertaken to prepare for their utilities to be turned back on.

Over the course of the next two days, homeowners worked with contractors of their choice to get furnaces, hot water heaters, and electrical panels replaced.  Most of the residents were ready to have their services restored on the morning of the 4th of July.  At daybreak on the 4th of July, more than 50 National Grid Technicians walked the streets of our village making sure that no resident went one minute longer without service than was absolutely necessary.

Those days in early July would have been much more difficult as a Mayor and as an impacted resident had the response from National Grid not been what it was.  The genuine compassion, care, concern, and attention will be forever appreciated by the residents of our village.

In closing, I want to make sure that everyone knows just what a valuable service that National Grid provides, and with the professionalism that they provide it. … As a Mayor and a flood victim, I looked at the next National Grid bill that I opened very differently.

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