Severe windstorm, powerful response

By Dave Bertola

On March 10, as a crew repaired a utility pole in Batavia, NY, a pair of pedestrians stopped to express their gratitude toward the 15 men who were working in frigid temperatures to restore their power.

“Thank you,” said the passersby, who walked across State Street and made a wide berth around National Grid utility trucks.

The two were among 180,000 National Grid customers who were left without electricity in upstate New York after a powerful windstorm March 8.

Greeting line crews in the field, National Grid NY president Ken Daly (left) saw firsthand the impact of the March 8 windstorm on western New York. Daly also visited the Batavia storm room and met with community leaders and emergency responders at the company’s Emergency Operations Center.

Western New York was the most severely impacted region of the company’s upstate service area – hardest hit were Genesee, Orleans, Monroe and Wyoming counties. Throughout the region, the wind knocked down tall trees, which dragged power lines and poles down with them.  With wind speeds exceeding 70 mph in some areas, more than 300 utility poles were knocked down or damaged. In addition, miles of distribution circuits, 80 transformers and multiple service lines to homes and businesses had to be repaired or replaced.

The storm hit on a Wednesday. From then through Sunday, March 12, a workforce totaling more than 1,800 worked around the clock to restore power. The crews were supported by hundreds of National Grid call center, logistics, engineering, supply chain, account management, communications and operations employees behind the scene.

By later in the evening the storm hit, 90 percent of our customers were restored, with the few remaining individual services impacted restored over the weekend. Once all National Grid customers were returned to service, many of our crews went on to support a neighboring utility that was also affected.

“This was an extremely damaging storm, and we are grateful that our western New York crews were assisted by their upstate counterparts, as well as National Grid crews from New England and from other utilities in New York and Canada,” said Melanie Littlejohn, National Grid’s New York vice president. “We also are grateful for the many police, fire, public works, municipal officials, Red Cross workers and other volunteers who did so much to support our customers and our communities.”

Besides the people who thanked the Batavia crew in person, others took to social media to express their thanks. Here’s a sample of what was shared online:

“To all the men and women who work for National Grid, stay safe and thank you! I am grateful for my candle, flashlights and oil lamps. I would rather use them for days as opposed to reading about any of you getting hurt out there. Stay Safe!” — Susan Waite Feitshans, via Facebook

“WNY thanks you for the amazingly speedy response.” — Nikki Calhoun, sending a Twitter message to @nationalgridus

“Thank you for a terrific job at restoring power in Attica, NY” — Lynn Barber, via Facebook

“WE ARE OPEN! Thank you National Grid workers for getting us up and running so quickly.” — LeRoy, NY-based D&R Depot Restaurant, via Facebook

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