Snowtober Report Praises Unitil Response, Criticizes PSNH

Nov 23, 2012

During Snowtober, branches and power lines fell under the weight of wet, heavy snow
Credit James Lee / Flickr Creative Commons

A new report from the state's Public Utilities Commission finds PSNH failed to properly prepare for last year’s October snowstorm.  Meanwhile, Unitil was able to effectively restore power to customers following Snowtober. 

The commission found Unitil was a “model” of storm preparedness last October.  The company used New Hampshire forecasts and probability models to make sure it had enough line crews in place—before the Snowtober storm hit.  So while Unitil had the highest percentage of customers lose power, it was also able to bring almost all service back within three days. 

Meanwhile, the bulk of the Utility Commission’s ire was aimed at PSNH.  The state’s largest utility took a week to fully restore power—the longest of any company.  PSNH spokesman Martin Murray says it was an unpredictable natural disaster, and there are other circumstances to take into account.

“We restored power in that area where Unitil restored its power in a timely manner, the response by PSNH was just as rapid and just as quick," Murray says.  "The problems that we had that were more challenging than the other utilities did take longer, and that’s because we have a much wider service area.  We serve areas that the other utilities do not.”

The report found PSNH’s own line crews weren’t “fully deployed” until 10 hours after the storm ended.  And the utility didn’t request outside assistance until the day the storm hit—when no crews were immediately available. 

Murray says the company learned from that event, and by the time Superstorm Sandy hit this year, PSNH already had crews in place and ready to respond.