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By Emily Greenhalgh
PBN Web Editor
(Updated, 4 p.m.)
PROVIDENCE – National Grid has restored power to more than 75,000 Rhode Island customers, but another 45,000 are still in the dark. As of 3:45 p.m. 46,086 of the roughly 122,000 Rhode Islanders affected by Sandy were still without power. National Grid said it is working to complete restoration by Friday, with possible isolated customers regaining power on Saturday.
The majority of the state has tried to return to business as usual, with the return of RIPTA service and the opening of state offices and the majority of public schools. The Bristol-Warren, Chariho, Exeter-West Greenwich, Foster-Gloucester, Narragansett, South Kingstown and Westerly public schools were closed on Wednesday, along with a handful of the state’s private and religious schools.
Throughout the day on Tuesday, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee toured the storm-damaged communities in southern Rhode Island. Chafee’s schedule included the Coast Guard House/Ocean Road area of Narragansett, Matunuck, Charlestown and Misquamicut.
Although the state’s Joint Information Center declined to say which Rhode Island areas suffered the most damage until it had completed an official assessment, more than 50 feet of coastline was washed away from the Misquamicut area. There were also reports of looting on Tuesday in the Misquamicut area. Many cottages at Roy Carpenter’s Beach were either washed away or suffered severe damage during the storm.
As the R.I. Emergency Management Agency partners with United Way of Rhode Island’s 2-1-1 hotline, Rhode Islanders whose brushes with Sandy resulted in property or business damage can report their situations by calling 2-1-1. Filing reports via the hotline helps the state seek disaster assistance for individuals, though filing a report does not guarantee federal or state assistance.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood approved the quick release of $3 million in emergency relief funds for Rhode Island, Chafee announced Wednesday. The emergency funds will help the state begin repairs to infrastructure damaged by Sandy, specifically the seawalls that support the state’s roadways.
“Some of our most important infrastructure – including sea walls that protect communities from surging seas – was damaged in this storm. The swift release of this federal funding will help us take quick action to begin these projects and put Rhode Islanders to work on needed repairs,” said Chafee in a statement. “This is another indication that the Obama Administration is committed to helping affected states recover from this destructive storm.”
The $3 million represents 100 percent of the funds immediately requested by the state. Rhode Island will also be eligible for further aid or reimbursements for infrastructure repairs.
The R.I. Emergency Management Agency issued safety warnings as Rhode Island residents, municipalities and emergency crews work to remove debris. RIEMA recommended worker wear sturdy boots and leather gloves to protect against nails and glass as well as long pants to protect against cuts, scraps and animal bites. They also recommended face masks, safety goggles and a hard hat as well as an updated tetanus vaccination.
The emergency group reminded residents to never approach a downed power line, but rather assume the line is still live. In spite of fallen tree limbs, RIEMA also asked residents not to attempt chainsaw use if they did not have training or experience using one.
RIEMA has offered suggestions to those looking to help those affected by Sandy by either volunteering or making donations.
Anyone interested in volunteering should visit www.serverhodeisland.org or call 2-1-1 to register. Volunteer opportunities exist for both individuals and businesses, but RIEMA insisted volunteers not show up unannounced at disaster sites. “Volunteer help may be needed in many communities; however, the goal is to match the community needs with volunteer skill sets and availability,” said the RIEMA release.
Donations to Sandy victims can be made to any recognized volunteer agency, though cash donations are the most useful. For additional information on needs, call 2-1-1. Donations can also be made through the National Donation Management Network at www.ndmn.us/RI.
R.I. Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin issued a statement warning all retail sellers not to inflate prices to try to profit from the storm. Rhode Island General Laws 6-13-21 prohibits all retail sellers from increasing the prices of any item immediately prior to or during a declared state of emergency.
“While we have not received any complaints as of yet, it is important to remind everyone to be aware of potential price gouging and to report any incidents to our office,” said Kilmartin in a statement. “I know that the majority of Rhode Islanders do not take this attitude, but unfortunately, sometimes in a crisis there are those who seek to take advantage of the situation.”
Anyone who feels they have been a victim of price gouging just prior to or during the disaster should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at (401) 274-4400.