Tropical Storm Isaias plowed through the region bringing high winds that knocked down limbs and uprooted trees onto power lines, leaving hundreds and thousands of people without electricity Tuesday night.
“It will be a multi-day response to get the power on, to replace all the equipment that has been broken and damaged by trees,” said Priscilla Ress, spokeswoman for Eversource.
Nearly 250,000 residents and businesses across the state reportedly lost electricity in a matter of a few hours due to sustained winds of as much as 40 mph and wind gusts that reached 65 mph in some areas.
Some of the hardest hit areas are in the areas are in the Hilltowns and the Berkshires. In small towns such as Becket and Chester, more than 90 percent of customers have no power. Greenfield, Cummington, Pittsfield, Hinsdale and Otis also have a large number of outages, Ress said.
Springfield has scattered outages throughout the city with more than 10,000 homes and businesses, or about 17 percent of the customers, left in the dark. In Longmeadow 3,340 customers are without power and Agawam and Amherst each have about 1,200 customers without electricity.
National Grid is reporting nearly 175,000 of customers have no electricity across the state. In Wilbraham and Monson 95 percent of the residents and businesses are without power. There are 4,672 customers in Belchertown and 5,027 residents in East Longmeadow with no electricity.
Municipal electric companies are also reporting multiple outages. In Holyoke the largest problems are along Route 5, in the Highlands and in the neighborhoods around Whiting Farms Road. Chicopee Electric Light is also reporting large outages spread throughout the city.
Electric companies have been planning for the storm for days as soon as it became apparent it would bring high winds and rain to the region, officials said.
National Grid has 1,987 crew members and contractors working on the outages after bringing in a number of people from other states, said Erin Del Llano, spokeswoman for the company.
Eversource brought in crews and private contractors from New England states which are exempt from the 14-day quarantine required for anyone coming from a different state to Massachusetts due to the coronavirus pandemic. Multiple crews were also brought in from Canada, Ress said.
That means that crews are traveling alone in trucks, wearing protective equipment and maintaining 6 feet distance from co-workers when possible. Because of that, restoration work may take longer, she said.
“One of the additional challenges is we are working in a pandemic. We are adhering to safety precautions,” Ress said.
She and Del Llano said no one is sure how the safety precautions workers must take to prevent spreading COVID-19 will impact the time it takes to restore power because it has never been done.
National Grid workers are also following the state and federal Centers for Disease Control guidelines for working safely to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They are doing health screenings and ensuring crews have protective equipment and the training they need, Del Llano said.
At National Grid most workers are doing assessments of damage Tuesday night to develop a plan to restore outages. While there are a few places were repairs can be made overnight, most work is expected to begin early Wednesday, she said.
One of the problems is wind gusts are making it difficult for crews to be working on high utility poles usually while they are in the bucket of a truck, Del Llano said.
Winds are expected to decrease overnight according to the National Weather Service.
“There have really high winds. The crews will assess if it is safe to go up in a bucket,” Ress said. “Sometimes they have to wait until gusts stop.”
Making it additionally difficult, many roads where outages occurred are blocked with trees and limbs. Crews are working with Department of Public Works in different communities to chainsaw through the debris so they can get close to the downed wires and damaged equipment, Ress said.
At the same time high winds are continuing through Tuesday night and damaging more of the electrical infrastructure even while crews are working to make repairs, Ress said.
Both Del Llano and Ress said the priority is safety and warn residents to never go near a downed wire because they may be electrified. Residents are asked to call their electric companies at 800-465-1212 for National Grid and 800-286-2000 for Eversource to report downed wires. If they feel if there is an immediate danger, residents should call 911.
A live wire can electrify puddles, fences and anything else nearby so people should stay far away from any downed wires and also make sure their children and pets keep away from them, Ress said.
People can find estimates of restoration for their own communities on the websites of most power companies.
Technical problems caused the Eversource outage map to be out for some time during the storm and people still cannot self-report outages on the company’s website or through the app. Residents are asked instead to email firstname.lastname@example.org and hundreds of extra customer care representatives are available to assist people, Ress said.