By Mac Cerullo Staff Writer
Newburyport Daily News
---- — AMESBURY – Power has been restored to most of Amesbury, with only handful of streets still in the dark after Hurricane Sandy and a powerful thunderstorm knocked out power for most of town over the past several days.
As of Wednesday morning, the only areas of Amesbury still without power were Pearl Street, Collins Street and parts of Congress Street, Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer said.
Amesbury was one of the hardest hit communities in the area utility-wise, with over 80 percent of the city losing power at the height of the storm on Monday night, Kezer said. The city fared better in other aspects, however, as there were no reports of flooding or significant damage to homes or businesses, Kezer said.
“For us the impact was power outages and pretty much limited to that,” Kezer said. “So we’ve had worse.”
Kezer said Amesbury was fortunate in that Sandy was a fast moving system that brought high winds but relatively little rain, compared to last year’s Halloween snowstorm where the heavy, wet snow caused trees and branches to fall and take down power lines over a much longer period of time.
“It just kept coming and coming, all the damages and outages,” Kezer said. “But this one was a high wind storm that came through for 10 or 12 hours, created its damage, and then it was gone.”
A big chunk of the city lost power again on Tuesday night after a brief but intense thunderstorm pounded the region, knocking out power downtown, along Main Street and at several Amesbury schools.
Kezer said getting the power back online at the schools by Wednesday morning was essential, given that school had already been cancelled two days in a row due to inclement weather and the ongoing power outages.
“I got in touch with [Fire] Chief [Jonathan] Brickett, who is the Emergency Management Director, and at 10 p.m. [Tuesday] night I met with him and the representative from National Grid, sat down and basically said ‘we’re going to have lights on in the schools,’” Kezer said. “They came on within an hour.”
Kezer said he is pleased with National Grid’s response so far, but added that the city would continue to put pressure on the company until all power had been restored for all Amesbury residents.
“We’re going to keep pursuing National Grid to get the power on in those remaining neighborhoods, to make sure they know they’re not forgotten,” Kezer said. “Even though they’re small in numbers doesn’t mean we let up on the pressure on National Grid.”
Besides being able to get the power online faster, Kezer said the biggest area of improvement he has seen from National Grid has been communication. During one of the big storms last year, he said there was an occasion where officials and residents were waiting around for the power to come back on and later found out that the crews had gone in to rest and wouldn’t go back out again until the next morning.
Had he known that, Kezer said he would have been able to notify residents to expect the outages to continue overnight and to seek alternate plans if necessary.
“Not knowing that was frustrating, and that’s what’s been much improved,” Kezer said. “Having that representative right there who has a direct connection in means we’re able to get good information on what’s going to get done and what’s not going to get done. That’s the big change.”
With the power back on, classes were able to resume and most businesses had reopened by yesterday morning, allowing the city to return back to its normal routine. Trick or treating was also held at its regularly scheduled time, allowing Amesbury’s children a chance to get outside after being cooped up in their homes for most of the past few days.
As for what comes next, Kezer said the city would be working to assess its storm related costs and then proceed from there.
“At this phase, it’s documenting all of our costs in order to get it turned in for whatever reimbursements we’re going to be able to get,” Kezer said. “Then once that’s done and we do whatever cleanup there is, we move on and get ready for whatever’s coming next.”