With Hurricane Sandy on track to blast the Northeast over the next few days, Tewksbury public safety officials feel the town is ready for whatever the big storm has to dish out.
The town's department heads met on Friday at Police Headquarters and then participated in conference calls with Massachusetts Emergency Management officials Friday night and Saturday. Fire Chief Mike Hazel says the town has a solid plan in place.
"We have been through this a few times so we are making our usual preparations," said Hazel. "Each department goes through their checklist of equipment and staffing needs."
Hazel said the town's preparations include the following:
- Verifying generators are ready to go.
- Making sure the shelter at the Senior Center is prepared to open if it is needed.
- Making sure sand bags, traffic cones, and barricades are available if needed.
- Ensuring that all of our after hour contact numbers are up to date for personnel, the utilities, and MEMA.
- Evaluating current and anticipated water levels in low lying areas.
- Securing loose items around town buildings.
- Topping off fuel in our vehicles and equipment.
- Preparing staff for potential call back.
Sandy is currently a category 1 hurricane rolling up the Atlantic and is expected to turn northwest on Sunday afternoon. Impact on New England from the storm is expected by Sunday night and could linger until Wednesday.
As the impact of the storm hits the Merrimack Valley, winds are expected to be gusting at 40-60 MPH, along with five inches of rain or more. Flooding and power outages are highly possible.
Tewksbury town officials are asking for the public's help in keeping the storm drains clear in front of their property and along their roadways. The town has some 3,300 storm drains and catch basins. The DPW has had multiple crews out clearing the storm drains in preparation for the storm. However, the trees have been dropping leaves quickly, making it impossible to keep all the drains clear.
On Saturday, Gov. Deval Patrick declared a State of Emergency in preparation for the storm.
"This enables us to cut through some of the red tape sometimes involved in securing the necessary services, supplies and personnel I want to be sure we have in advance of Hurricane Sandy reaching us," said Patrick.
Patrick added that there were 200 National Guard members on duty Saturday and would be 1,000 on duty by Monday to supply armories, fill sandbags, assist victims and transport emergency personnel.
National Grid, which was roundly criticized for not being amply prepared for the Hurricane Irene in August 2011 and the October 2011 blizzard that left much of Tewksbury (and many other communities) without power for several days, said they are much better prepared for the power outages expected to be caused by Hurricane Sandy.
“Our first concern is the safety of the public and our employees,” said Kathy Lyford, National Grid vice president of electric operations in New England. “We have tracked Sandy very closely over the past several days, and preparedness plans are being developed to make sure our crews are ready to respond as quickly and safely as possible. We are leaving nothing to chance; we’re preparing for the worst.”
According to Lyford, National Grid's preparations have included the following:
- Contacting with contractors with whom they regularly work for storm support.
- Planning to bring in additional crews, if needed, over the weekend.
- Implement their storm command system to coordinate preparation and restoration efforts throughout the event.
- Continuous monitoring of the storm and positioning their resources to best respond to storm outages.
- Provide routine public updates
Lyford said National Grid has invested tens of millions of dollars in strengthening its New England electric distribution infrastructure since the infamous "Snowtober" disaster. She said the company has also implemented new
procedures based on lessons learned from the 2011 storms.