Late in the afternoon on June 1, 2011, Westfield, along with citys and towns as far east as Southbridge, experienced weather conditions rare in our neck of the woods. Severe weather had been predicted, and a tornado watch soon became a warning. Our crews were on alert, and at approximately 4:20 p.m., our emergency preparedness plan was put into action. Crews were dispatched to the affected areas and, within 90 minutes, power was restored to close to 90% of those customers experiencing outages. With extra personnel in dispatch handling customer calls and coordination of extra staff out in the field who were investigating reported outages, restoration crews were quickly directed where needed.
The hardest hit area was in a pocket in the southeastern quadrant of the city, particularly in the Shaker Heights, Glenwood Heights. Birch Bluffs and Knollwood neighborhoods. The high winds uprooted multiple trees, many of which fell in roadways or pulled down power lines and broke utility poles. As a result, there were major safety concerns with fallen lines and access into these areas was severely hampered.
WG&E crews and contract crews working for the department were on site throughout the night clearing trees and opening roadways in Birch Bluff, Shaker and Glenwood Heights so emergency personnel could initially get into these areas, assess the damage and begin the repairs. Once these main neighborhood arteries were cleared, WG&E crews then moved to clearing the ancillary side streets in these developments including, among others, Colony Circle, Falley Drive, Steiger Drive, etc. This area suffered significant damage and restoration work continued for several days in efforts to get power restored.
With mutual aid from several neighboring communities and out of state, there were many additional crews supplementing WG&E personnel and specialized equipment was brought in to assist in making the extensive repairs necessary to the remote right of way off Shaker Road (in the area between Tannery and Pontoosic Road) where many of the poles carrying the high tension lines were snapped and lines were on the ground.
The WG&E was able to restore power to all affected neighborhoods within two days, with the exception of a few isolated homes that suffered structural damage. Recovery efforts for those directly affected by the storm continued much longer, but providing electricity, we hope, offered some measure of comfort.
Click on the links below to read an open letter to the community from our General Manager, Dan Howard, to find ways you can donate or volunteer to relief efforts, and to read a few of the many comments we received from the folks in our community.