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Helping out

PSNH crew from Granite State returns from working to get NYC's lights on

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 23. 2014 7:26PM
Some of the PSNH crew members who worked to restore power to New York City residents include, from left, Dan Cowette, Rick Simons, Mark Carignan, Chris Brien and Jay Yergeau. (COURTESY)

BEDFORD — A week spent working on the electrical circuits that keep the lights on in the city that never sleeps was more than enough for Public Service of New Hampshire technicians who rose to the rescue last week to fix storm-related related problems with the electrical network in New York City.

Jay Yergeau of Goffstown, who works for PSNH out of the company's Bedford area work center, was among crew members called to New York a week ago after pieces of Consolidated Edison's network began failing in the wake of absorbing tons of salt spread on the streets to keep the traffic moving in America's biggest city.

Once absorbed in melted snow, the salt worked its way into subterranean service boxes and corroded contacts. In at least one instance, in Manhattan, the malfunctioning boxes reportedly resulted in "stray voltage," which electrified metal in the surrounding area. That led to street fixtures and even doorknobs becoming charged with low voltage, but shock-producing, electricity. Some stores posted warnings not to touch metal doorknobs, a CBS television report said.

"It's kind of a mixture of the salt melting and the amount of salt they put on the roadway," Yergeau said. "It gets into these service boxes and kind of erodes the conductors that service the individual customers."

Yergeau's crew spent much of its time in Brooklyn, which has twice the population of New Hampshire, but only seven-tenths of one percent of the land area.

The service boxes that failed are located about 4-feet underground in spots at curbside usually occupied by parked cars.It's the kind of congestion a power crew just doesn't have to contend with in New Hampshire.PSNH workers also worked in Queens, along with crews from sister Northeast Utilities companies in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

"The tough part of New York City is a lot of times, there are cars over the service boxes and we couldn't access them," Yergeau said. "We don't operate that way; it was a lot different traveling around that area with those vehicles."

The New Hampshire crews went to New York under a mutual aid pact in which utilities help each other when weather-related outages are too much for local crews to handle. Under the agreement, New Hampshire has received help from other power companies from around the country after severe ice and snow storms. PSNY crews worked 16-hour days for eight consecutive days to get the lights back on.

After a week in New York, Yergeau was not bitten by any desire to pull up his Granite State stakes and alight for the Big Apple. "I'm not much of an urbanite," he said. "I like my yard and I like mowing my lawn."

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