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Not So Nice New England Ice

Dec
18
2008

As I sit here at my computer, a Honda generator hums in the background, a near constant companion since Friday when I ventured outside to assess the damage wreaked by New England’s great December ice storm.

Honda’s trusty piece of equipment has kept the house warm and the fridge cool, kept water flowing from our well, and kept a few lights and outlets energized. All things considered, we’ve got it pretty good; up the street one house has a basement filled with water. It was three feet deep before the local fire company arrived with a gas-powered pump to keep things from getting into the electrical system. A friend in one of the harder-hit communities also has water in his basement – and a tree in his house. His family is huddled around a woodstove making memories while keeping the pipes from freezing at night (with a little help – on Monday temperatures neared an unseasonably warm 60).

Apart from the main thoroughfares, the roads here remain littered with trees and wires. Off the main routes, the damage this storm visited upon the region is vividly apparent. Few trees were spared, losing tops and limbs under the weight of the heavy ice that coated them during the overnight storm (which the National Weather Service warned as late as Thursday might only amount to a “light glazing”). Many roads were blocked by fallen trees, wires, and utility poles, and many houses were damaged by fallen trees and limbs as well. No telling when things will be back to normal, but I’ve got some observations to share with the outside world as soon as I’m able to get to a source of free WiFi.

First, thank you to WTAG, the big AM radio station out of Worcester. Once I got the generator running and tuned in, their broadcast provided a hugely important local service, namely the dissemination of information. To hear radio out of Boston, you’d have no idea of the extent of the devastation folks in much of Northern New England are feeling. WTAG was up and running on generators, answering questions and conveying information received from listeners via text message. WTAG’s suspension of normal broadcasting to provide that vital service was appreciated by many thousands of people otherwise cut off from the rest of the world.

The staff of the Boston Globe, on the other hand, should be ashamed of themselves. While many the region were still without heat or power on Sunday morning, that paper’s lead story was about the difficulty South Shore auto dealers are having selling cars. Pardon me while I wipe the tear from my eye.

You’d think we outlanders would be used to the snubs by now, but I suggest the Globe reconsider calling itself New England’s newspaper until they post a reporter or two west of Route 128. My parents had read more about our situation in the Atlanta Journal Constitution than the Globe carried in their paper. And folks who have gotten television back say the news stations are also largely downplaying the storm’s aftermath.

While listening to WTAG I also noted the regular updates on power restoration provided by electrical utility National Grid. My electric company, Unitil, has been absent through it all. The Fitchburg area, which is largely served by Unitil, is among the hardest hit areas of the state, but no one has heard much from them. I managed to get online briefly this morning courtesy Panera Bread’s free WiFi service and browsed over to Unitil’s web page where I found one pathetically uninformative press release on the situation.

Here’s a clue to the folks at Unitil: when the power is out, most folks can’t get to your Web site. How about a call to the local radio stations to let us know what you are up to?

I’ll spare you a full catalog of the the object lessons in self reliance and the dangers of becoming dependent on Big Government. But I will suggest that you get yourself a generator. And I pity any who are still waiting for the Federal Emergency Management Agency or someone from Beacon Hill to come with the necessities.

Look out your window and you’ll find neighbors helping neighbors, and local communities mustering their resources to weather the storm — as it should be.

Share  Posted by Mike Spinney at 8:44 AM | Permalink

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