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In A Powerless City, Some Businesses Struggle To Remain Open

This article is more than 11 years old.
Francis Barrett runs 1-2-3 Service. This Attleboro business has been without power since Sunday. (Kimberly Adams for WBUR)
Francis Barrett runs 1-2-3 Service. This Attleboro business has been without power since Sunday. (Kimberly Adams for WBUR)

The effects of Tropical Storm Irene are still visible in many communities across the commonwealth. Many residents in some cities and towns are entering their fourth day without power.

In Attleboro, more than 63 percent of the community still did not have electricity, according to provider National Grid on Wednesday. Some residents were not expected to get power back until Saturday. But several local businesses were open, even though they had no power.

At the County Square Pharmacy on County Street in Attleboro, pharmacist Lauren Heroux Camirand uses only the light of the sun that filters through the windows to see by as she hand mixes a medication for a child. The store hasn't had power since Sunday, but they've been open for at least a few hours each day since Monday.

"It wasn't really a question of whether we should open or not,” she says. “It's just…we have to be here."

In Attleboro, on Wednesday, more than 63 percent of the community was still without electricity.

For the over-the-counter items the pharmacy sells, Camirand is operating on a cash-only basis. Without power, the store can’t process insurance claims, but for prescriptions, Camirand is giving regular customers temporary refills to last them until the systems are up and running again. The back counter at the pharmacy is covered with hand-written lists of who received what, and what orders still need to be filled.

Across the street from the pharmacy, Franicis Barrett is only able to keep his gas and service station, 1-2-3 Service, open with the help of a generator out back. It gives him enough power to run the lights, a small air compressor, and a machine that helps them do state car inspections.

Without power, he said he’s limited to doing "little jobs you can do with hand tools.” He points to his three service bays and the large metal plates that usually lift the cars in the air. The generator doesn’t give him enough power to lift those up to do major car repairs.

He’s also losing money because he can’t sell gas from his electric pumps. He has spent much of the past few days turning people away because he doesn’t have any gas. He's frustrated it's taking so long to get the power back on.

"I'm 70 years old, so I've seen some real bad hurricanes,” he says. “But this little one is affecting us more than any of the big ones have. I mean, I'm sorry, but I'm blaming National Grid."

National Grid says it's doing the best it can, but that Tropical Storm Irene dictated how bad the power outages were.

Edward White is vice president of energy products for National Grid, and says he understands people’s frustration with the length of the outage. He points out the company is working with a liaison in the city to prioritize what areas should get power back first.

"Is it a pumping station or is it a school, is it an elderly home?” he says of the process. “But really our focus is the big mainlines first and then all the individual connections to individual services follow after that."

Back at County Square Pharmacy, Camirand is trying to stay open as long as there is enough daylight to fill prescriptions for the people who need them. But she worries she'll lose customers to other area pharmacies that have had power the whole time.

"I'm sure we're going to take a [financial] hit,” she says of all the lost business due to the power outage. “We'll see it at the end of the month. I'm sure it will be a big hit to the business."

Meanwhile, National Grid trucks are scattered throughout the city, trying to get the lights back on.


This program aired on September 1, 2011.


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