Bienvenue, Hydro Quebec crews.
With tens of thousands of residents still without power yesterday evening, Public Service of New Hampshire welcomed 75 two-man crews yesterday. Some stopped off in the North Country, spokesman Martin Murray said.
But about 15 trucks, each with two workers, arrived in Manchester to be briefed before they headed across Southern New Hampshire to help repair damage from Sandy and get the lights back on.
As of 5 p.m. PSNH still had 37,506 customers awaiting restoration.
Windham, particularly hard hit, still had 71.5 percent of the utility’s customers waiting to get back online. To compound the frustration, the percentages there had dropped to just under 59 percent at 3 p.m.
Despite some serious tree-trimming efforts by all New Hampshire utilities this summer and fall, branches and trees knocked down by Sandy pulled down wires around the state. Trees also crushed cars and punched holes in houses.
That means companies like Happy Trees in Pelham have plenty of work.
A year ago, company owner Victor Paliy said he worked for the town for about four months, cleaning up from the heavy October snowstorm.
“Right now, I’m basically working from 7 a.m. until 4 o’clock for the town,” Paliy said yesterday, “and I’m going to do private work for residential customers.”
But all the downed trees don’t mean a ready supply of firewood, most are pine, which isn’t great for that purpose.
Most of the fallen trees will be chipped for mulch or fuel.
Pine trees are softwoods and full of moisture, according to Fred Borman, a forestry expert for the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.
Many towns will pick up brush or allow residents to drop it off at their transfer facilities.
But residents who have trees down, should call in the experts, Borman warned.
“I’ve seen more people out cutting trees with sneakers and shorts on, and it just curdles my blood,” he said. “It’s just an accident waiting to happen.”
But power restoration is foremost in the minds of many — those who are still wanting for the lights to go back on.
PSNH spokesman Mike Skelton acknowledged utility crews still have “a ways to go.”
“We know where the problems are. We know what needs to be fixed,” Skelton said. “It’s a matter of having enough resources to fix every one of those problems.”
Crews from Texas, Oklahoma and Québec are here to help.
“They’re going to make a very big difference,” Skelton said. “We expect the restoration to be substantially completed by Friday evening.”
Until had restoration complete yesterday, Liberty Utilities was close and New Hampshire Electric Co-op had less than 4,000 still out at 6 p.m. Clearly, PSNH had the most powerless customers as of last night.
Trick-or-treat was postponed until this weekend in Londonderry, Pelham, Salem and Windham. But schools reopened yesterday everywhere but Derry, Windham and Sandown North Elementary. Windham and Derry were expected to resume classes today.
Skelton acknowledged the continued difficulties for many customers, but said the lights should go back on soon.
“We’ve made good progress,” he said. “We’re feeling pretty good about continuing our work here and bringing the restoration closer to the finish line.”