National Grid liaison Tom Coughlin's first order of business Tuesday at Foxborough's emergency Board of Selectmen meeting at Town Hall was not to update the town on the status of its power outages but rather to issue an apology.
"I think I have to start out by saying on behalf of National Grid I apologize to the town for any erroneous information," Coughlin said. "That’s something we are going to have to get really good at."
The "erroneous information" Coughlin is referring to was the percentage of power outages in Foxborough Monday night caused by Hurricane Sandy. The number was reported by National Grid to Foxborough Fire Chief Roger Hatfield as high as 75 percent of the town without power. That figure forced Foxborough Schools Superintendent Debra Spinelli to close schools Tuesday.
But by daylight Tuesday morning, 85 to 90 percent of the town had been restored of power, including Foxborough's schools, which was frustrating for Spinelli.
"Also have to apologize to Superintendent Spinelli for the decision she made based on what we told her,” said Coughlin.
National Grid finally provided an estimated restoration time for Foxborough late Tuesday night, saying it expects power to be fully restored to the 452 residents still without by Friday, Nov. 2 at 11:59 p.m.
The town went from nearly 75 percent without power Monday night to over 90 percent of the town being restored by Tuesday night. However, the 452 National Grid customers still without power are in for a difficult and frustrating next few days.
“Any kind of power outage is a terrible thing and it’s really a bad inconvenience for everybody,” Coughlin said. “So on behalf on National Grid, I would like to apologize to the citizens for any inconvenience you have had.”
The areas still without power, according to Coughlin’s report to the Board of Selectmen Tuesday night, are:
Half of Route 1 trailer park off Washington Street
The primary cause of Monday's power outages was a failure with "the Union Loop," which is the same power feed that failed Foxborough during Tropical Storm Irene and the Halloween storm last year.
“The primary problem to the extent that we were out of power until now is not local trees,” Town Manager Kevin Paicos said. “Primary problem is outside of town borders and is once again the so-called Union Loop, which sync large transmission lines like the giant 200-foot towers that you see come into a large sub-station in Attleboro. From Attleboro, another line known as the Union Loop, which is literally a loop, distributes power like spokes off a wheel. Our power comes from that Union Loop.”
Paicos said two cross-country towers blew over Monday, which feed the Attleboro sub-station, forcing Foxborough to lose power.
“Union Loop has 12 sections to it and five of those sections were compromised in some way. ... That was what was responsible for most of the community being without power.”
As of Tuesday morning, however, Coughlin reported the Union Loop was back up and running, feeding electricity to Foxborough. What was reportedly causing power outages in Foxborough Tuesday was downed wires and distribution lines.
Complicating restoration efforts Tuesday night, according to Coughlin was the need for more crews in other towns, who were experiencing “much worse” power outages than Foxborough.
“"Right now, there is one crew enroute to Old Colony Road,” said Coughlin at Tuesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting. “While that sounds bad [having only one crew in town], some of the towns around [Foxborough] have outages that are much worse so what they did is take the crews out of Foxborough and send them to another town. But we do have one crew coming to town. It’s not good news but it’s the honest truth."
Coughlin identified Old Colony Road as National Grid’s top priority because of a downed tree into wires at the end of the road.
"We do have somebody waiting for a crew on Old Colony Road and the reason why that is important is because that road is blocked at the end and we have to remove a tree that is on wires," Coughlin said. "The public safety concern there is we could not get fire equipment back there to fight a fire. That’s top priority.”