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NH utilities prepare to lend a hand in aftermath of dangerous Hurricane Florence

Union Leader Correspondent

September 11. 2018 10:32PM
John Muchmore helps carrying hurricane shutters at the Afterdeck condos ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Florence in Garden City, S.C. (Reuters)

Utility companies in New Hampshire are keeping a close eye on Hurricane Florence and preparing for the possibility of sending local crews to the Carolinas to help restore power in the aftermath of the monster storm.

Florence was packing winds of 130 mph Tuesday afternoon as she continued her ominous trek toward the Southeast coast.

Forecasters expect Florence could be a major Category 4 storm when it makes landfall along the North Carolina coast by early Friday morning.

While the extent of the hurricane’s impact won’t be known until the storm hits, some local utilities are already putting crews on standby.

“We are currently developing a roster of crews that could be available if requested after the storm has passed,” said Carol Valianti, spokesman for Hampton-based Unitil.

According to Valianti, the country is divided into regions for mutual aid. Unitil is part of the North Atlantic Mutual Aid Group.

She said Unitil will work with the mutual aid group as it did following Hurricane Irma last September.

“Irma was the fifth-worst U.S. hurricane in terms of damage and Florence has the potential to be in the Top 3, so we absolutely expect that resources will be requested. We always have to ensure that we are in the clear from a storm perspective and there are no imminent storms on the horizon that could impact our region, but we are definitely anticipating we will assist in their restoration effort,” Valianti said.

New Hampshire Electric Co-op doesn’t have plans to send its linemen south just yet, but that could change.

“We will be standing by to send crews if and when they’re needed, but that would likely be after the storm has passed. If the storm is as strong as predicted, there should be plenty of work to be done down there,” company spokesman Seth Wheeler said.

Liberty Utilities, which is headquartered in Londonderry, is taking a similar approach.

“There are an abundance of crews available in closer proximity that can get there quicker than we can. We will stand by and possibly offer crews if needed once the damage is assessed,” spokesman John Shore said

Eversource is also monitoring Florence and evaluating any potential impact to its customers, but it appears it will stay well south of New England.

“Once we confirm we are in a position to deploy crews, we will offer our assistance, if needed, as we have in the past,” said Kaitlyn Woods, an Eversource spokesman.

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