Worcester County

Harvard among several Mass. towns still struggling with power grid following winter storm

HARVARD, Mass. — Arielle Jennings lives on a tree-filled lot. But after Monday’s storm, it’s a little less tree-filled.

“On our property, we’ve had four downed trees, one of which has taken down our power line,” she said.

All over Harvard, trees and power lines succumbed to a thick coating of heavy, wet snow collecting on branches already glistening with ice. The toll on the power grid was substantial. At one point, nearly 60 percent of the town was without power — a number that dwindled to around 40 percent by late Tuesday.

“I thought it was going to be quick,” said Natalie L’Ecuyer. “It kept flickering. I thought it was going to come on after, like, five minutes.”

“We don’t have phones, we don’t have internet, we don’t have TV,” said Paul Bauer. “So it’s life the way it ought to be. Like the good old days, right?”

Bill Cordener had better fortune than many in Harvard. He lost power Monday around 5:30pm.

“And it came back at about 8:20,” he said. " Today, I’m one of the lucky ones. We’re astonished how many power outages there are.”

Included in the black-out: town offices and essential services. In fact, the fire station is running on a generator — and it died overnight.

“We had a main seal go on that, so luckily we were able to Mickey Mouse it to get it going again,” said Fire Chief Rick Sicard. “But we’re on borrowed time with that.”

Also on borrowed time, the town’s water and sewer systems. Both rely on electrically-driven pumps — and those are down right now.

“There is no power and there’s no backup generator to those pumps, so right now the system can’t be restored,” Sicard said. “Luckily we have enough water in the tank right now, but that will be depleted over time if we can’t get the pumps back on.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the town was waiting for a back-up generator to run the water system.

A small section of town is also served by sewers that feed into a holding tank. Normally, waste is pumped out of that tank — but with no electricity, those pumps can’t run, either.

“It can freeze,” Sicard said. “All the lines can freeze and that’s a major problem.”

National Grid, which serves the town’s power needs, stated in a press release it expected to have most customers back on line by Tuesday night — but that pockets of outages could persist into Wednesday.

“Every time I ask questions, what crews are available,  what crews have been deployed,  what’s the plan... I keep getting ‘I don’t know,’” said Sicard.  “Please help. Please have a plan. Just give us a plan so we can focus on this is what we have for resources, this is where they’re going to be deployed. So we know if it’s gonna be five hours, ten hours, twenty-four hours for restoration, we can plan for those time frames. But getting answers of ‘I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know’ is not acceptable to me.”

Boston 25 News asked National Grid to respond to Chief Sicard’s criticisms. So far, we have not received a response.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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