ENVIRONMENT

Power returned to most residents, FEMA to address Nemo damage

BLOOMBERG PHOTO/SCOTT EISEN
NOR'EASTER NEMO dropped more than two feet of snow in parts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Above: Cars in a Boston neighborhood sit buried by snow on Saturday morning.
Posted 2/11/13

(Updated, 4:15 p.m.)

PROVIDENCE – Winter storm Nemo, which hit full force late Friday and dumped more than two feet of snow of parts of the Ocean State, left more than 187,000 Rhode Islanders without power.

As of 4:00 p.m. on Monday, all but 13,565 Rhode Islanders had power restored and all but 23,608 of the peak 170,214 Massachusetts residents who lost power were back in the light.

National Grid spokesman David Graves said that 187,263 Rhode Islanders lost power at one point during the storm. The peak for power outages in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts occurred on Saturday morning, after hurricane force winds and heavy snow barraged the region throughout the night.

Graves said National Grid expected everyone in Rhode Island to have power restored by midnight Monday, but said that due to some really severe damage in Massachusetts in the South Shore and Plymouth County regions, power might not be restored to the last of the Bay State residents until midnight Tuesday.

Snow totals passed the two-foot mark in five of the six New England states, with Vermont being the exception. Snow fall totals in Rhode Island ranged from 17 inches at T.F. Green Airport to 27.5 inches in West Gloucester, according to Accuweather.com. Boston’s Logan Airport’s snowfall topped out at 24.9 inches, the fifth highest in the airport’s history.

Rhode Island saw wind gusts of 68 mph in Jamestown and 63 mph in Warwick, according to Accuweather. On Friday night, the R.I. Turnpike and Bridge Authority closed the Jamestown Verrazano Bridge and Newport’s Pell Bridge after the wind hit 90 mph on top of the iconic Newport Bridge.

Nearly all of the state’s private and public schools remained closed on Monday and some cities have decided to keep schools closed on Tuesday, according to Turnto10.com’s list of closings and delays. The Community College of Rhode Island, Johnson and Wales University, Rhode Island College, Salve Regina University and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth also remained closed on Monday.

The R.I. Public Transit Authority reinstated bus service “as conditions allow” on Monday morning. RIPTA said up to 20 different bus routes would be on detour due to “heavily accumulated snow in some areas and unplowed snow on secondary roads.”

The storm arrived days after the 35th anniversary of the “Blizzard of ’78,” which buried Boston in a then-record 27.1 inches of snow and killed 99 people in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Nemo was blamed for at least 11 U.S. deaths, the Associated Press reported, including an 11-year-old boy in Boston who was overcome by carbon monoxide as he sat in a running car to keep warm.

On Sunday, Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee and R.I. Emergency Management Agency Director Kevin R. McBride sent a request to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to perform a preliminary disaster assessment in all five Rhode Island counties. In the request to FEMA, McBride said, “Damages have been incurred due to heavy snow accumulations, drifting snow, and hurricane force winds resulting in dangerous driving conditions, stranded vehicles, power outages, potential structural damage, coastal flooding and other hazards.”

According to a release, the PDA process will help the state calculate damages and potentially apply for federal assistance.

Beginning Tuesday, four PDA teams comprised of federal, state and local officials, will conduct surveys throughout Rhode Island to asset the scope of damages and estimate repair costs. According to a RIEMA release, the PDA process is expected to be completed in two to three days.

“We are thankful for FEMA’s quick response to our request,” said Chafee in prepared remarks. “We understand that the PDA is the first step in the process to determine if the extent of damages would qualify the State for federal assistance, and it does not guarantee a federal disaster declaration.”

Information gathered during the PDA will be passed to the state for review. Based on the information collected, Chafee will decide whether or not to proceed with a formal request for federal assistance.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

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