LISTEN LIVE: Loading...



After Storm, Wrentham Residents Battle Another Round Of Power Outages

This article is more than 11 years old.
The American Red Cross in Wrentham (Deborah Becker/WBUR)
The American Red Cross in Wrentham (Deborah Becker/WBUR)

Although Massachusetts' largest utility says it's applying the lessons learned from Tropical Storm Irene to this weekend's nor'easter, many storm-weary residents are fed up. The Town of Wrentham, for example, is not expected to have all power restored until Thursday. Even the town's famous senator, Sen. Scott Brown, is miffed about being in the dark.

A generator was providing power to one of the few places in Wrentham that was not in the dark Monday — the Town Hall. Wrentham officials are encouraging residents without power to come here.

Maureen Osolnick came to charge her cell phone and the topic of conversation among the handful of residents was the town's utility provider, National Grid, and its response to this storm and Tropical Storm Irene just two months ago.

"In August with Irene, I lost power for seven days and now two months later I've lost it again and they're saying we could be out until Thursday," Osolnick said. "It's incredible to me that two times in two months, after being here for so long, that we would lose power for such prolonged periods of time. Something is wrong with the system."

And Janet Angelico, director of the Wrentham Senior Center, said this storm is worse than Irene because now it's cold. Angelico and a team of volunteers have been trying to check in on every one of the 1,500 senior citizens in town.

"In August with Irene, I lost power for seven days and now two months later I've lost it again and they're saying we could be out until Thursday."

Maureen Osolnick, Wrentham resident

"I stopped at people's homes on the way here to check on them and to give them meals and brought some extra meals here in case people come here to get warm. It's a horror show as far as I'm concerned, and it's unacceptable to let people freeze (in their) homes for days," Angelico said.

Although all roads in Wrentham were open Monday, most businesses were closed, schools were closed, Halloween was postponed until Friday and traffic signals depended on motorists' honor.

Wrentham Police Chief James Anderson has been at the police station since the storm hit Saturday.

"I'm tired...tired and grumpy," Anderson said.

Anderson has six officers going door-to-door checking on residents and providing information about services such as the closest Red Cross Shelter at La Sallette Shrine in Attleboro. He said the National Grid is doing a better job in this storm because Wrentham is one of 90 communities that has its own liaison who has been assigned by the utility.

"They've been much more responsive to us this time than they were with Irene. Although they might not be moving as quick as we would hope, at least we're getting more answers, more information that we could give out to our citizens," Anderson said.

But Anderson still questions why the utility wasn't better prepared for this storm that dropped less than six inches of snow on Wrentham.

He's not the only one. Sen. Scott Brown, who lives in Wrentham and is without power, visited the Attleboro shelter Monday and said he's sending a letter asking the utilities to explain the prolonged outages.

"It was a storm, but listen, we're in New England, we get storms like this all the time. We've heard in my area it's not going to be up until Thursday. I mean why? We've had bigger and better storms," Brown said.

Ironically, a hearing scheduled this week on the utilities' response to Tropical Storm Irene is canceled because of these current power outages. State Rep. Dan Winslow, who represents Wrentham, has filed a bill that would require the utilities to repay customers for days without power.

"This is a public safety issue. We haven't had this kind of repetitive extensive power outage for years in the district and it seems to be happening not so much a function of weather but a function of business decisions by the utilities. That's got to stop," Winslow said.

But National Grid President Marcy Reed said the utility can't fight Mother Nature.

"We're doing everything we can to restore power as quickly as possible, however even with the resources that we are deploying to restore power, it takes time to repair the damage as extensive as what we've incurred this weekend," Reed said.

Among those cleaning up the damage is Frank Civitarese with the landscaping company Norfolk County Property Management. He says storms are just a part of life in New England.

"It's nature, it's not National Grid. Everyone's out trying to work. We're out trying to work right now and get rid of the trees," Civitarese said.

Civitarese adds though that he doesn't have to worry about outages — he has power generators.

This program aired on November 1, 2011.

Deborah Becker Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.



Listen Live