Clean sweep post storm
City crews hopeful collection of storm debris will be completed within two weeks
Now there’s the cleanup.
With roads opened and power finally restored to all 14,136 Warwick National Grid customers who lost it at the height of last week’s fierce wind and rainstorm, Department of Public Works crews are sweeping the city to pick up the debris. There’s lots of it, too.
The city has temporarily relaxed regulations for the pickup of sticks and branches, lifting the requirement they be tied in bundles no longer than four feet. Residents can pile branches at the curb where they will be collected. Leaves and smaller debris should be bagged or placed in collection barrels at roadside. A full complement of equipment including chippers and front-end loaders are making the rounds based on the regular yard waste pickup schedule.
“We’re hoping we’ll have it done in two weeks,” Highway Supervisor Jimmy Vangyzen said yesterday. He noted that storm devastation is spotty.
“You drive down one street and there’s nothing and go down another and it is looking like World War II,” he said.
One of those streets was Pleasant View in the Gaspee section where a giant tree was uprooted, bending down over a house with its branches blocking the road. The road was quickly opened and, by Monday, large portions of the trunk had been cut into sections.
Amazingly, with a section of the trunk removed, along with the branches, the remaining portion of the trunk was still standing. The city will need to dig it up to complete the job.
Mayor Scott Avedisian said yesterday that, while more Warwick customers lost power in this storm than those during Superstorm Sandy, there was less damage this time around.
“Cleanup is going incredibly well,” he said. “I’m pleased with the reaction our city crews had in the aftermath of the storm.”
Avedisian didn’t have overtime costs relating to the storm, but he thought the biggest financial hit was in lost revenues from skating rink and pool rentals. The pool reopened last week and the rinks will be back online today.
Many residents didn’t wait for city crews, transporting storm debris themselves in the backs of their cars and trucks to the compost station behind Mickey Stevens Sports Complex off Sandy Lane. The city has extended hours at the station, which usually remains open until 3 p.m. on weekdays, to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. until further notice. This Saturday it may be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. depending on the need, Vangyzen said.
Even though closed, people showed up at the station Sunday, anxious to make drop-offs. But one resident was there to make a collection. Manny Silva backed his pickup truck alongside a virtual mountain of tangled branches and cut sections of tree trunks outside of the fenced station. He had no trouble finding what he was looking for, sections of oak that would fit into his wood stove. He drove a steel wedge into a cut section at least three feet across.
“It’s starting to crack,” said Silva with satisfaction, pausing to rest. At 78 years old, Silva is a former construction worker and stays active. With wood selling at more than $200 a cord, Silva didn’t want to miss the opportunity to save a few dollars and for some exercise. Fortunately, he said, they didn’t lose power – his wife had a freezer full of food.
Colleen Pinelli, who lives on Lake Street, wasn’t as lucky. She didn’t get her power restored until Friday, and she was furious with National Grid. She said she made multiple calls to the utility company, getting estimates that the power would be restored shortly. She bought dry ice and then more dry ice to save the food in her freezer. Had she known how long it would be she would have emptied the freezer and brought everything over to a relative who had power. When a crew finally arrived, Pinelli expected it would take hours for them to replace the transformer, the suspected cause of the outage. Instead, the problem turned out to be a fuse that was replaced in a matter of minutes. She questioned why that couldn’t have been done sooner.
Ted Kresse, spokesman for National Grid, reported Monday that with the exception of some single customers, all of the 154,000 Rhode Island customers who lost power during the storm were restored by 10 p.m. Friday. The effort to restore power depended on the help of contractors from out of state and as far south as Florida.
“At the end of the day, we had over 675 crews working on the outages at peak [Thursday morning], which would’ve included [line crews, forestry, wires down, underground, substation crews.] That included 50 internal line crews and over 180 external line crews,” Kresse wrote in an email. One good thing, he said, no injuries were reported as a result of the storm or the five-day effort to restore power.