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November 29, 2014 - 11:30
Concord Monitor

Thousands of Concord residents were still without power when a Unitil line crew was called to Dunbarton Road.

A few minutes later, an out-of-town road crew that had worked all morning needed lunch.

Utility trucks, tree services and outage maps have become familiar sites this week in central New Hampshire, and mobilizing – and feeding – those crews falls to an emergency operations center on Maguire Road in Concord. At about 1 p.m., engineers scribbled on maps of Concord hanging on the wall, while staffers rattled off addresses over the phone to road crews.

The number of Concord customers without power was 8,000, down from a high of 31,000 during the storm’s peak.

“The numbers aren’t as scary as they were yesterday, but this is still the hub of coordination,” said Tiffany Nelson, a spokeswoman for Unitil.

The Thanksgiving storm prompted Unitil’s first emergency response operation of the season. The response is handled at two levels. The regional center in Concord works in tandem with central command in Hampton. The Concord post opened Wednesday afternoon, as the heavy, wet snow started piling up and knocking out power. “They’ve been working pretty much around the clock,” Nelson said.

The post was coordinating work for 66 line crews and 23 tree crews on the road. Two overnight crews were resting.

Local operations handle when and where work will be completed, but system-wide plans are handled in Hampton.

“Everyone in that office is seen as a central support for all of the regions,” said Carol Valianti, vice president of communications at Unitil. Hampton workers are responsible for calling in out-of-state line crews like the ones from Canada, Atlanta and Tennessee called in this week. “That logistics team deals with things like, ‘Okay, we’re going to have 70 crews coming to Concord and they need a place to sleep,’ ” Valianti said.

As outage reports started flooding in Wednesday night, Unitil started its damage assessment using information gathered from municipal reports, customer contacts and physical inspections. From there, the utility developed a strategy to restore services, starting with critical care facilities, emergency operations centers and then working to restore power to large groups of customers.

To read the full article, click here.

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