PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island’s coastline was pummeled by Superstorm Sandy a decade ago, leaving thousands of people in the dark for days.
According to Resilient Rhody, a report complied years after the storm to highlight the impact of climate change, nine substations went out of service and 1,433 sections of wire were pulled down.
About 120,000 electric customers lost power and 1,200 natural gas customers lost service.
There also were dozens of poles broken as the storm rained down.
Tonight on 12 News at 5 – Meteorologist T.J. Del Santo takes a closer look at the areas hit hardest by the storm 10 years ago.
It took about five days before National Grid, now known as Rhode Island Energy, was able to restore power.
During the storm, 32% of National Grid customers were left in the dark for several days. Data obtained by Target 12 shows the worst storm since Sandy was Nemo on Feb. 7, 2013, when about 239,000 customers lost power.
Rhode Island Energy emergency planning manager Steve Parenteau said the company has made some changes since Sandy. He said one major change involved the utility consolidating four of its mutual assistance groups into one to help streamline the restoration process.
“We have eliminated those three we now have one North Atlantic mutual assistance group which is part of a new structure nationally of similar mutual assistance groups,” Parenteau explained.
Rhode Island has far more coverage than it did nearly a decade ago. But the company’s manager of transmission and distribution forestry, Christopher Roony, told Target 12 that one major challenge is unhealthy and old trees that come down first during storms.
To try and solve for this problem, he said several communities have collaborated to try and remove a lot of old trees.
“They’re trying to help storm proof their communities as well so in the past you know, twenty years ago, everybody was on their own,” Roony said. “We’ve come together a lot better at trying to manage what is out there.”
Even though utility companies prepare as much as they can, however, he said things can change in an instant.
“In Sandy we were watching the storm the whole time but then it took a hard left going toward New Jersey so we had crews pre-planned and pre-arranged from Burrillville to Tiverton to Westerly,” he said. “But the only areas that really got hit were down toward Westerly and Narragansett.”
During Sandy, Ninigret Park in Charlestown was used as a small staging area. Since the storm, Roony said they’ve utilized that space more.
“If you notice last summer, when we had Henri we completely turned that into a major staging area while in Sandy we had just a small staging area,” he said.