Tens of thousands of electric cooperative members in New England began their week without power after the remnants of Tropical Storm Philippe blew through. And some had to wait longer than usual for restoration because many contract utility crews are working in Puerto Rico.
The late-season storm hit New England early Oct. 30, ripping apart and uprooting trees still heavy with autumn leaves.
"At the peak of our outages, we had about 52,000 members out, which is more than 60 percent of our meters," said Seth Wheeler, communications administrator for New Hampshire Electric Cooperative in Plymouth. "Our crews are cutting and clearing to try to get into areas that have been cut off by downed trees and limbs."
"A lot of contract crews have been in Puerto Rico helping to restore power there following hurricanes Irma and Maria. We've got crews on the road from Ohio heading to New Hampshire, but they won't arrive for at least two days," said Wheeler.
More than 30,000 of the co-ops' meters were still out of service Oct. 31.
"Utilities throughout the region are all in the same situation, with widespread outages," said Andrea Cohen, government affairs and member relations director for Vermont Electric Cooperative. "There really are not enough workers and local crews to handle outages quickly, so these outages will last longer than usual."
The Johnson-based co-op reported nearly 40 percent of its meters out of service at midday Oct. 30. The storms knocked out about 15,000 of its meters.
"We're hoping to get some crews in from the Midwest," said Cohen. "Some of our more rural members near the end of the line may be out until the weekend."