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Quincy officials say despite storm successes, still room for improvement

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  February 12, 2013 02:09 PM

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Although all of Quincy had power back by Tuesday morning, and flooding had been limited along Quincy’s shores, city officials say there is still room for improvement in how the city handles storms.

The city has been in high gear since Friday afternoon, when a massive storm front covered Quincy with 30 inches of snow.

Since then, crews have been working around the clock to plow streets and restore power, but changes will need to be made going forward, officials said.

“There were some sections of the area I represent that were not plowed as well as I would have expected, within 24-48 hours after the storm,” said Councilor Brian Palmucci.

Concerns about plowing have been popping up throughout the city, with pictures on councilors’ Facebook feeds commenting that there is no room to stand at bus stops, and others saying that plowing was “a disgrace.”

Though some have commented that plowing was good, considering the circumstances, Palmucci said he is looking into the reason why Quincy’s streets didn’t look as good as they could have.

The issue will be brought up at a future City Council meeting, yet according to mayoral spokesman Christopher Walker, the plowed area of streets was kept narrow as part of a plan to make roads at least passable, while salt and other materials ate away at the snow banks and widened the streets.

“What that does is allows the road to be passable and prevents driveway aprons from getting plowed in with several inches of snow,” Walker said. “The flip side is roads will be a bit narrow for a few days, so folks need to be a little careful and take it slow. This was a historic storm and frankly we’re up and running at almost full capacity, between 48-60 hours later we’re up and running, so folks need to understand.”

The temporary citywide blackout did not making plowing any easier, Walker said. Quincy police also said that, despite parking bans, the city had to tow 51 cars that hindered plowing efforts.

Walker did concede that there is always room for improvement in circumstances like these, and said the city will meet to discuss how to improve next time.

“It’s fair to say there were some issues, but considering where we were at daybreak Saturday, the city has made some progress,” Walker said.

Yet plowing wasn’t the only area of concern. The time it took to restore the city’s power was also problematic, Palmucci said.

“The reason why these power outages are increasing in duration because they significantly cut staff who handle the maintenance between storms,” Palmucci said of National Grid. “It requires longer to repair in times of weather emergencies.”

Though Quincy had power restored long before nearby National Grid community Scituate, and long before NStar communities Duxbury and Marshfield, Palmucci said four days is still too long to wait.

“I reject the premise that they are not as bad as the worse and are therefore okay,” Palmucci said.

Officials in the mayor’s office had a different take on restoration efforts, saying they were markedly improved from previous storms.

“The mayor believes National Grid did a great job with the number of crews it had working incredibly hard throughout the last three to four days getting power back up. This is a major difference between some of the issues we’ve had with previous storms,” Walker said.

The mayor does intend to look into the overall infrastructure of the utility company, Walker said, especially considering that the citywide blackout was mainly caused by the failure of one transmission line.

Difficulty with the line may be epidemic of a larger infrastructure problem.

“But that doesn’t diminish the job the boots on the ground did from start to finish,” he said.

Those differences aside, the city did see success in flood mitigation throughout the storm.

The tide gates were closed and the marshes were drained prior to Nemo's coming ashore. Outfall pipes were shoveled out after the storm to allow water to drain back into the ocean.

“I was grateful to see that DPW dug out the outfall pipe on Edgewater Drive and water was rushing out, which is a HUGE relief as the marsh was full and the rain and melting snow is a significant concern for this low lying coastal neighborhood,” said City Councilor Margaret Laforest on her Facebook page.

The city will have to deal with some seawall damage at the Bell Street end of Edgewater Drive, Laforest said.

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