After slamming into the South Carolina-North Carolina border as a category 1 hurricane late Monday, Tropical Storm Isaias made its way into southern New England on Tuesday afternoon and was expected to impact the region well into the morning.
Officials with both National Grid in Rhode Island and Eversource in Connecticut said Tuesday that they anticipated potential widespread outages as a result of storm damage, but were prepared to respond quickly with thousands of personnel in place to begin repair efforts as soon as conditions were safe to do so.
"We have nearly 2,500 personnel in place across Rhode Island and Massachusetts to respond as quickly and safely as we can,” said Michael McCallan, vice president of New England electric operations for National Grid. “The COVID-19 pandemic presents a different set of challenges for storm preparation, but we have adjusted accordingly to ensure that we are taking care of our customers.”
By Tuesday afternoon, forecasts called for the storm to remain inland with the biggest impact expected in northern Connecticut and western Massachusetts. Winds had already measured gusts greater than 30 mph in parts of Westerly, according to the National Weather Service, and towns including Westerly, Stonington and Hopkinton were each montioring the impact after opening emergency operations centers as a precaution.
The weather service expected the storm to make its closest approach around 4 p.m., and forecasts called for wind gusts of up to 55 mph, creating the potential for significant tree damage and power outages throughout the evening.
By 4 p.m., emergency officials in both Westerly and Stonington reported several outages as a result of downed wires and trees, and firefighters with multiple area agencies said they were prepared for an increase in reported damage.
Both utility companies said they also anticipated an increase in the number of outages through the evening and into Wednesday morning as more significant rain and wind entered the region.
Representatives of both National Grid and Eversource said Tuesday that the companies recognized the importance of restoring services quickly, especially as many continue to work from home as a result of COVID-19.
“Working under the challenging conditions related to the pandemic, our crews are positioned around the state and ready to respond to any damage or outages caused by Tropical Storm Isaias," said Mike Hayhurst, vice president of electric operations for Eversource. "Our team will work around-the-clock to restore power as quickly and safely as possible — yet some restorations may take longer as we work to ensure the safety of our employees and customers.”
Hayhurst and McCallan each asked customers to be patient and said field employees are working as hard as they can while performing essential services in accordance with state guidelines and the Centers for Disease Control safety guidance.
"Employees adhere to all the pandemic safety protocols including social distancing guidelines and protocols, and the use of PPE and health screening checks, required by the states in which National Grid operates," McCallan said.