By Matthew M. Robare
Hurricane Sandy made landfall in southern New Jersey near Atlantic City Monday, causing millions of dollars in damage, and many places are still without power or isolated from help, with the flooding in New York City resulting in dramatic photographs and the shutdown of the subway system. However, New England and Saugus came out fairly unscathed.
“At the peak interruption, it was about 3,500 customers,” said Charlotte McCormack, a National Grid spokeswoman, on Tuesday morning. “We don’t have definite estimated times of restoration yet.”
At the time she was interviewed, service had been restored to all but 990 customers in Saugus, out of 12,000.
“I was up on the roof during the hurricane, fixing some siding before I lost it,” Saugus Selectman Stephen Castinetti said.
“I was greatly surprised,” said School Committee Member Arthur Grabowski. “My electricity never flickered. It was quite a blow. I sat in my house with the house shaking. We really lucked out.”
The high winds did bring down trees, with one tree taking out the cemetery building on Winter Street, according to Town Manager Scott Crabtree. He said that the records did get wet and the office has moved to the Town Hall annex on Main Street.
“Luckily for us this unprecedented storm took a hard left,” Crabtree said Tuesday night. “There are still some areas without power.”
“They did a great job, the DPW,” said Selectman Julie Mitchell. “My neighbor had a tree. We had a lot of damage, but we were really lucky.”
“There are certainly individual cases where people were impacted significantly by the storm, so I don’t want to make light of that,” Crabtree said. “But I think overall we handled it pretty well.”
One issue that has come up before with wet weather has been the town’s drainage systems being unable to handle the rain and backing up onto streets. The town is currently in the process of expanding and improving drainage.
“We did okay with the flooding. Believe it or not, with this tropical storm we didn’t see as much rain as a typical rainstorm,” Crabtree said. “We didn’t get many reports of flooding. There’s still a lot of debris out there. The DPW, emergency management, police and fire and building maintenance and the custodial staff did an excellent job of dealing with the issues that arose from the storm. They’re going to be busy for the next few days.”
Town Hall and all town offices were closed Monday during the storm, which meant that no one was in the cemetery building when the tree hit it. Saugus public schools were closed Monday and Tuesday. The town’s compost pile will also be open to all residents to dispose of storm debris.
Some deficiencies in the town’s emergency preparedness were noted by Crabtree. “You realize very quickly that they have a shelter set up in the senior center without a generator,” he said, which means it cannot actually be used as a shelter. Saugus officials also lacked a way of getting emergency information to town employees and residents.