Fire chief says $1.5M tree cutback was a factor
Fire Chief Chris Russo breathed a sigh of relief following Wednesday’s major storm – due to the fact that, of the town’s 8,500 light plant customers, only about 100 lost power compared with 6,500 in Hingham, along with many other outages in surrounding towns.
“The outages were scattered around Hull. There was some pole damage on Clifton Avenue and Nantasket Road, mostly caused by downed trees,” Russo told The Hull Times. Restoration of service was expected to be completed by the end of the day on Thursday.
There was also a water main break on Atlantic Avenue, where the infrastructure is aged and improvements are underway as part of a major project.
While he could not put his finger on why Hull did not experience the “catastrophic event” that many other communities did, Russo said that, in addition to “saying a few prayers,” the continuing cutback of trees by National Grid (about $1.5 million’s worth in the past year and a half) in a wooded part of Hingham where the two main feeder lines for Hull are located was one reason for fewer outages than might be expected from a storm of hurricane strength.
Russo also noted that Hull does not have a heavy tree line on many of its streets, which was a major issue for other towns. “When you get three inches of rain with leaves still on the trees, they will come down,” he said.
While some South Shore communities experienced wind gusts of up to 90 mph, they peaked in Hull at around 77 mph. “Because the hurricane season is officially over, this storm wasn’t referred to as one, but in season it would likely have been classified as a Category 1 or 2 hurricane,” Russo said.
Preparation is the key. “We prepare our staff, equipment, and resources [and work with National Grid] in the event we lose our feeder lines,” he explained. “Loss of power is a big issue and a controversial one. Looking at the big picture, I think we got very lucky for some reason. We didn’t get the sheer winds that Scituate, Hingham, and Weymouth had.”
So that the town can be even better prepared,
Russo is starting to look back on the past 15 or so years of storms to compile a document that could possibly determine if it is the time of year, a specific wind direction, or other factors that have caused the most damage to Hull’s infrastructure in the past.
“I think our community is becoming more resilient when it comes to preparedness, which helps lessen stress and anxiety,” Russo said. “While no one is happy when an outage occurs, we accept the fact that storms are getting worse, the climate is changing, and that there is some ownership for us all to take to be prepared for [the sake of] our families and neighbors and to do the best we can when these things happen.”
Reviewing what was a challenging day this week, Russo was relieved that the situation was not much worse elsewhere than it was in Hull. “We’ve had some really bad luck here in the past, and if we had experienced a longer event with power loss in October, that would signal a really long winter for everyone,” he said. “I’m thankful [something big] missed us this time and hope it misses us the next 10 times. In the meantime, we’ll stay on task to ensure the infrastructure into Hull is resilient and that the trees [continue to be] cut back.”