While children around Massachusetts attended school and went trick-or-treating on cleared, well-lit streets on Halloween, children in Weston were enduring a third consecutive powerless night due to Hurricane Sandy.
Weston was the slowest town in Massachusetts to return to full power. According to NSTAR figures, 50.7 percent of Weston NSTAR customers were without power Tuesday. On Wednesday that number had shrunk to 38 percent, still a much greater percentage than any other town in the state.
Weston Police Lt. John Lyons said the communication between town officials and NSTAR was bad from the beginning.
“We started notifying NSTAR in the afternoon Monday, and we did not see an NSTAR truck until Tuesday after 11 a.m.,” Lyons said.
Lyons said there was a tree down on every major road in Weston following the storm. Conant Road, Concord Road and Church Street were particularly battered.
It’s the police department's responsibility to make sure emergency vehicles can pass along major arteries in town, but town Department of Public Works employees are not allowed to cut trees down until they have confirmation the power to any ensnared wires has been shut down by NSTAR, Lyons said. To do this, NSTAR has to tell its subcontracted tree crew to cut down the damaged trees.
This is where the communication breakdown took place.
"We had an absolutely horrible experience with NSTAR response," Lyons said. “All they kept saying is the trucks were in town or on the way and should be working but couldn’t tell us where."
Under pressure from Gov. Deval Patrick, NSTAR instituted a new program where a community liaison would be in more-consistent touch with town officials to coordinate efforts.
NSTAR’s spokesman Mike Durant said the suburbs west of Boston were hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy and outage times overall have reflected that.
“Our priorities are restoring power to as many people as we can as quickly as we can,” he said. “That may mean we have more resources dedicated to one community in a period of time than another.”
Durant would not go into specifics on why response to Weston was slow, but he did say it was not intentional if it was the case.
As of Thursday afternoon there were still 448 customers without power in Weston, which represents 10 percent of NSTAR customers.
Trees remained tangled on wires for so long and in so many places that police ran out of cones, police tape and detour signs, Lyons said. Residents in Weston called for quick cut downs of some of the massive, ancient trees.
Weston Patch reader MargePConant commented: “Most of the trees around [town] marked in orange last spring are still standing, many with broken limbs and causing problems----“
Others called for a re-evaluation of utility services. Reader Marsha Walker commented: “Weston seems to be routinely either neglected or simply ignored when these storms happen. Where is the supposed improvement in power restoration? Why can't NSTAR get its act together and actually respond to the town of Weston with a sufficient number of crews to deal with our power outages.”
Isabella Jancourtz commented: “Wellesley and Concord have their own municipal power plants and power outages in those towns last only an hour or two. Weston should seriously consider doing the same.”
The lights should all be on in Weston by Friday morning, and trick-or-treating has been postponed until tonight. Bus stops had to be changed, and the town is slowly picking up the rubble left behind.
But Lyons said he would never forget the nightmare of a week brought on by Hurricane Sandy.
“The governor made it a mandate that all these utility companies statewide had all these plans in place and it absolutely failed in Weston," he said.