Halloween tricks entire region

WESTFIELD  –  Emergency  crews are still working to return electrical service and clear roads as the region digs out of a freak October snow storm that dumped a foot of wet heavy snow Saturday.
Westfield Emergency Management Director Jim Wiggs said that a combination of the wet snow and the fact that most trees were still in full foliage caused trees and limbs to snap, pulling down power lines throughout the city Saturday.
“Because there was still so much foliage on the trees, there was a much larger surface area for the snow to cling, adding tremendous weight on trees and limbs,” Wiggs said this morning. “It’s pretty hazardous out there right now. Wires are down all over the place, so of the main feeds are down.”
Wiggs urged residents to use extreme caution around downed lines as power is restored.
“Most of those lines have been dead, but they could be energized at any time as the grid comes back on line,” Wiggs said.
Mayor Daniel M. Knapik said that emergency power and tree clearing crews are being brought into the city, but the fact that the hazardous conditions are regional, stretching from New Jersey throughout Massachusetts means that additional manpower and equipment are coming a much greater distance.
“”I’d have to say this is a much larger a magnitude of a problem than the tornado or flood, which were relatively localized,” Knapik said. “We were able to get mutual aid from out neighbors to respond to those problems, but they are dealing with this disaster themselves.”
Knapik, who declared a state of emergency Saturday at 7.45 p.m.,  said that power crews from as far away as North Carolina have arrived in the city to assist the Westfield Gas & Electric crews in restoring power.
“We have six power company crews who just arrived, so that will significantly increase efforts to restore power,”  Knapik said. “One of the major differences between this event and the earlier disaster is that they were warm-weather events and there were plenty of emergency responders available. Those earlier events hit a huge area, but they were not regional. This one is huge.”
Wiggs said that Saturday, during the height of the storm, 80 percent of the city was without power.
“As of 6 p.m. Sunday, that was down to 65 percent, but it may be a while before we get power back to residents. This is a regional disaster, so everybody’s emergency responders are being taxed,” Wiggs said.  “I can’t call neighboring communities for assistance, as I did for the tornado.”
“We have additional power and tree trimming crews coming in from southern Pennsylvania   to help restore power and clear trees blocking roads,” he said. “We will continue to restore power and clear roads as expeditiously as we can safely do so.”
Wiggs opened an emergency shelter at the Juniper Park Elementary School Sunday, because Westfield State University has power and the ability to provide food to residents without heat and power to prepare meals.
“We do need additional volunteers to help at the shelter and we may open a second shelter,” Wiggs said. “Westfield State University reached out to us because they have power and the ability to provide food to people in the shelter.”
Fire Chief Mary Regan said the department has transported a number of people to the Juniper Park shelter and Noble Hospital for care due to cold-related issues.
The department also responded Sunday morning to a two-alarm fire at the Pro-auto Repair shop located at 979 Southampton Road. The blaze caused damage estimated at $500,000.
“There was some structural damage, but most of that estimate is because of the equipment and vehicles put inside the six bays of the building to get them out of the storm,” Regan said. “There was a lot of smoke damage.”
The fire was reported by a 911 caller at 11:01 a.m. Sunday. Holyoke dispatched a ladder truck and a pumper to assist city firefighters at the scene, while West Springfield dispatched an engine to cover the Broad Street headquarters in case another emergency occurred.
“They were able to knock it down pretty quickly,” Regan said. “There was no power to the building, so we have no idea how the fire started. We’ve contacted the State Fire Marshal’s office to assist with the investigation.”
Both Knapik and Wiggs urged parents to keep children inside tonight because of the hazard of downed wires and trees and because of the lack of street lighting in many neighborhoods.
“The best advice I can give parents is to keep their children home because it’s still unsafe to be out with the downed lines and no street lights,” Knapik said. “Parents should exercise their best judgment and stay inside.”
Knapik said that city school were closed today because many are still without power and that the decision will be made on a daily basis as  efforts continue to restore power and address public safety issues.
Wiggs said that Baystate Fuel dispatched a diesel fuel truck with the capability of pumping fuel directly into Department of Works and other city trucks suing that fuel because the city’s fuel pumps require power to work.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top