By Bill Kirk
---- — With just over 1,000 customers in the Merrimack Valley still without power and just 8,400 statewide, National Grid is just about ready to declare victory over Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy.
The company that provides electricity to most of Massachusetts said in a statement released at 11:30 a.m. today that it expects to "complete restoration of all Massachusetts customers ... by midnight tonight."
Last night as of 11 p.m., there were more than 3,000 local customers still in the dark. By noon today, that number had dwindled to just over 1,000, with 304 out in Andover, 397 in Haverhill, 113 in Lawrence, 183 in Methuen and just 65 in North Andover.
National Grid's Massachusetts president, Marcy Reed, said yesterday that the Merrimack Valley was among the hardest hit areas of the state.
"As of 11 a.m. today, more than 228,000 customers have been restored, down from a peak of more than 237,000 at 11 p.m. on Monday," she said. "Approximately 8,400 customers remain without service at this time."
Pockets of outages remain throughout the region. Reed urged Massachusetts homeowners without power to call National Grid at 1-800-465-1212.
"This will help National Grid identify any individual homes and businesses without service," she said.
Initially, the company had expected to have the restoration completed by tomorrow. As work progressed, however, company officials continued to communicate with community officials and monitor and adjust the overall work plan.
National Grid now expects to have the restoration complete by midnight tonight, with customers being restored on an ongoing basis throughout the day. There may be some isolated pockets where restoration will take longer because damage is extremely severe or customers need to make repairs to their property before service can be restored.
She said there remains room for improvement.
“Every storm offers an opportunity for us to do better," Reed said. "While we do believe we improved our performance since last fall’s storms, we will continue to work in partnership with our communities to further enhance our preparedness, restoration and communications processes so that we can better serve our customers.”
Methuen Public Works Director Ray DiFiore said most of the downed trees in the city have been cut up and removed from area roadways. The two private tree-cutting crews working for the city will be released tomorrow, he said.
"We're in good shape," he said, adding that homeowners can bring tree branches and yard debris to the landfill until 5 p.m. every day this week, including Saturday.
North Andover Public Works director Bruce Thibodeau said town crews have removed all the hazardous trees from roadways and National Grid has cleaned up all the downed wires.
"Now, we're just doing things left alongside of the road," he said. "There were a couple of trees we had to take down that were uprooted."
He said Verizon is still working in a couple of places in town where wires were taken down.