By Brian Messenger firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — More than 3,000 National Grid customers in the area remained in the dark early yesterday evening — some 48 hours after Superstorm Sandy hit the region — even as Massachusetts utility companies were credited with a swift response to widespread power outages.
Along with the south coast, the Merrimack Valley was one of the hardest-hit areas in the state, according Marcy Reed, president of National Grid Massachusetts.
Reed said power will be restored to the majority of customers without it today. The latest estimated time of restoration in the area is Friday at midnight, she said.
“We had a number of outages in the Merrimack Valley,” Reed said yesterday during a conference call with reporters. “We’re continuing at it. We will work as hard as we can until we get these people back.”
At 11 p.m. yesterday, National Grid estimated 3,043 customers were still without power in Methuen, Andover, Haverhill, North Andover and Lawrence. That figure was down from 5,609 at 5 p.m.
Statewide, a mid-storm high of 387,000 customers without power Monday night was down to 89,000 early yesterday. Gov. Deval Patrick said utility companies “stepped up their game” responding to Sandy, having restored power to 80 percent of the customers who lost it.
“Now, 89,000 is still a high number and if you are one of the families or businesses without power, that is very concerning,” Patrick said.
Patrick said he “will look to the utilities to do better than that, to continue to lean forward,” but credited the companies with an improved response this time than with two weather events late last year, Tropical Storm Irene and the October 2011 snowstorm.
Local officials agreed with the governor.
North Andover Public Works Director Bruce Thibodeau said National Grid was prompt in addressing reports of downed wires, which in turn freed his crews to quickly cut and haul away fallen trees and limbs.
“The electrical company did an outstanding job and got everything cleared up,” said Thibodeau.
National Grid is fielding a crew of roughly 2,400 workers, made up of employees from 31 states and two Canadian provinces. Reed said the company’s restoration efforts are moving “about twice as quick this time” than with Irene and the October snowstorm last year.
“We’re pressing ahead as fast as we have been since the beginning,” said Reed. “We are progressing ahead of schedule.”
Thibodeau said North Andover DPW cleared between 35 and 40 trees and large limbs from roadways on Tuesday and Wednesday. As of noontime yesterday, he said only Academy Road remained blocked to traffic.
“Everything else is passable,” said Thibodeau. “It was a tough storm but I think we managed to get through it.”
Much of the major cleanup work in Valley cities and towns was completed yesterday.
“We’re in pretty good shape,” said Methuen Public Works Director Raymond DiFiore, whose crews hauled away approximately 50 trees.
All roads in Methuen and Lawrence were open yesterday. With roadside tree work complete, Lawrence DPW Director John Isensee said city crews have turned to cleaning up the North and South commons.
“If it’s been cleared to cut by National Grid, we’ve cut it up,” said Isensee. “We’re in pretty good shape. We fared pretty well. We’ve seen a lot worse.”
Several roads remained closed or detoured in Andover yesterday afternoon, including Canterbury St. at Westminster Road; 118 Greenwood Road; 80 Tewksbury Street; 55 Harold Parker Road; Shaw Drive and Chatham Drive.
Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini assessed the condition of the city yesterday as “generally good with some pockets of problems.”
Fiorentini said power remained out yesterday in neighborhoods around Lakeview Avenue and lower North Avenue, Corliss Hill Road and West Lowell Avenue. He said Building 19 in RiversEdge Plaza as well as the Comfort Suites hotel and Churchill Court Apartments off River Street also remained in the dark.
As of 1 p.m. yesterday, Fiorentini said only North Avenue remained blocked off. He said city residents can bring tree debris to the Highway Department on Primrose Street free of charge, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturday from 8 to 1 p.m.
“The trees seem to be taken care of, at least moved to the side of the road,” said Fiorentini.
Material from the State House News Service was used in this report.
OUTAGE UPDATE National Grid customers without power at 11 p.m. Wednesday: Methuen 953 Andover 1,127 Haverhill 870 North Andover 494 Lawrence 284 Area total 3,043 Essex County total 4,384