East Bay

Newport residents, businesses grapple with third day without heat

NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — People in Newport woke up to a slightly milder day on Wednesday, but temperatures in the 40s were not enough to warm their frigid homes and businesses, many without heat since Monday.

Hundreds continued to stream in and out of Gurney's Resort - the customer service center set up by National Grid - to get information, hotel vouchers and electric space heaters.

"It's been tough, it's been very cold," said BJ Gray, who was leaving Gurney's clutching two electric heaters. She said she tried to stay at home on Monday night but checked into a hotel on Tuesday.

"I was nice and warm in bed but when it woke up it was cold," Gray recalled. "The worst part was going to the bathroom, sitting on the cold toilet bowl," she added, laughing.

Hilary Marshall, a realtor who shares an apartment with her boyfriend and dog, said they are sticking it out for now because of a lack of dog-friendly hotel room availability.

"I wanted one that was pet friendly and luckily there are [at Gurney's]. But I am on a waiting list until Sunday, so hopefully I will get in on Sunday and if this is still happening I am taking that room," Marshall said. The Potter League is taking in pets due to the gas emergency but she didn't want to separate from her dog or cause him any anxiety.

Marshall also went to check on her mother's Newport home on Wednesday, setting up space heaters near the plumbing and turning on the water to a trickle.

"She's not here full time, so I'm making sure that the pipes are okay, I'm making sure that the water's dripping," Marshall said.

She said she's relying on showers at the gym while she waits to either get a hotel room or get heat back.

Businesses are also struggling due to the heating outage, including several on Thames Street from the Brick Alley Pub to Starbucks. 

Rob Lasky, one of the owners of Helly Hansen, Life is Good and the Toy Box, said his three stores were closed on Tuesday.

"It was freezing in here," Lasky said. "I could see my own breath, there was no way we were able to open. It's not the busiest time of year, but to miss an entire day doesn't help matters."

The stores were able to open Wednesday thanks to huge propane tanks powering portable heaters, but it only lasted a few hours. The Newport Fire Department told the owners to remove the tanks and put them outside, Lasky said. 

He said missing this weekend's sales would be a huge problem for the stores.

Ed Christiansen, the owner of Antique Clock Repair and Restoration, picked up several space heaters from Gurney's to try and heat up his shop. It's unclear when he might be able to reopen.

"They're saying multiple days," Christiansen said, referring to National Grid. "In my personal opinion, based on how they've set forth what they are planning to do, it'll be a couple weeks."

Gov. Gina Raimondo said Wednesday that people out of work because of the gas emergency can immediately apply for unemployment, and she said the Department of Labor and Training (DLT) will waive the customary penalties to employers so businesses don't see a spike in their unemployment insurance prices.

This story has been updated to reflect that propane tanks have now been removed from inside three stores in Newport.


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