There’s an irony to the nearly two-hour power outage that 275 Warwick Neck customers, including Warwick Country Club, endured last weekend.
The outage, one of several in recent months, has prompted Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur to look into the situation and has him considering a Department of Public Works budget item dedicated to a program of tree trimming in proximity to power lines. Ladouceur also thinks National Grid should be held accountable for updating transformers and equipment to avert outages.
“I don’t think we’re talking about a little money,” Ladouceur said of the impact of an outage. “It’s a huge number.”
The councilman didn’t have specifics, but he observed that outages interrupt life-saving equipment and can result in extensive damage from frozen pipes, loss of freezer foods, loss of heat and the closure of businesses.
A constituent alerted Ladouceur by text of the most recent outage that occurred about 11 a.m. Saturday. He soon learned from his wife that their home in Anglesea had also lost power. Ladouceur immediately texted a contact at National Grid and alerted the police and fire departments.
It’s a procedure he follows with power outages. From there, if he learns of the location of downed wires or a transformer, he visits the site to personally assess the severity of the situation. During one outage, he went to check on a constituent’s claim that a National Grid crew was on site but doing nothing, just walking around. Indeed, that’s what Ladouceur found, but he quickly learned crew members were checking the neighborhood for home generators as they can back-feed downed lines and create dangerous conditions to the crew.
“I think the transformers and equipment is a big part of it, but it’s also the trees,” he said of Warwick Neck outages.
“We’ve got to start the conversation [with National Grid and the city DPW],” he added.
Because of its elevation and extensive tree cover, Ted Kresse, spokesman for National Grid, said Warwick Neck is “a little more susceptible” to outages.
He said the company spent $200,000 in the last year trimming trees directly above lines on Warwick Neck. He said Grid would welcome working with the city in further identifying and reducing branches and trees that could cause breaks.
As for the age of equipment and its replacement, he said the company follows an infrastructure safety and reliability plan that includes updating equipment as well as tree trimming. The annual cost of the program is $100 million.
And what was the cause of the most recent Warwick Neck outage?
Here’s the irony: Kresse said a crew was installing “spacers” between lines that would work to reduce outages.
Had the company alerted anyone in the city that the power would be shut off? The answer: apparently not.
That news set Ladouceur off. He was outraged that the company had not alerted authorities – including him – that there could be an interruption in power.