Nor’easter on Thanksgiving Eve. That’s All You Need to Know

To hear and read the forecasts being bandied about for tomorrow, Thanksgiving Eve, one would believe the Boston region is teetering on the edge of the apocalypse due to the anticipation of the dreaded Nor’easter.

“Nor’easter Likely To Bring Thanksgiving Travel Chaos to Northeast” shouts the headline from a national broadcasting corporation.

“Expectations for an approaching nor’easter have shifted, threatening up to 4 inches of snow accumulation as far east as Boston” warned a big Boston daily newspaper.

“Thanksgiving storm: Hour-by-hour snowfall!” announced a local television station.

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate!

With so much information being dispensed on this weather “event” – check out your twitter account to see how all encompassing the storm has become – it appears that, yes, it will be stormy Wednesday afternoon.

The National Weather Service, as of 3:14 p.m., today, Tuesday, Nov. 25, issued a winter weather advisory from 7 a.m. Wednesday until 7 a.m. Thanksgiving as snow is coming into the area.

But an advisory is issued when the accumulation is expected to be “light.” And the latest information is that Belmont can expect to receive between three to six inches with a trace of ice.

Rain will start around daybreak and change over to a wintry mix of snow and sleet by mid-day and into the afternoon before changing to snow in the evening. It will be heavy at times and windy – from the north averaging 15 to 20 mph with gusts up to 40 mph –before tapering off on Thanksgiving morning, just in time for the annual Belmont-Watertown football match at 10 a.m., this year at Harris Field.

So be careful when driving on untreated roadways or on suspended roads – like bridges and overpasses – and sidewalks.

If the lights go out, call Belmont Light at 617-993-2800. 

So here is your take away for tomorrow’s nor’easter:

  • It will be snowy tomorrow especially in the evening and at night.
  • It will take much longer to travel on Wednesday so you’ll be on the smartphone to hear the latest from your family member/friend as they are stuck in an airport or on the Mass Pike.
  • You’ll need something essential for the Thanksgiving meal and will be driving through the storm anyway.
  • Where are the snow shovels?

With Wind Advisory in Effect, Outages In the Mix

With the National Weather Service issuing a wind advisory for Belmont and eastern Massachusetts that will last until 6 p.m. on Sunday, the chances climb a branch or tree will fall across the power wires that supplies your abode.

If the power does go out, those effected should call Belmont Light at 617-993-2800.

Belmont Police and Fire departments said residents should only call 911 for true emergencies.

New Electrical Substation, Transmission On Line for Spring 2016 Launch

After listening to Belmont Light General Manager James Palmer at public meeting Tuesday, Sept. 23, the best way to described the work to bring on line a new electrical substation and laying out a transmission route through town is “hunky-dory.”

Since being approved by Special Town Meeting in Feb. 2012, the town-owned electric utility proposal to meet the town’s increasing power requirements has been steaming along right on schedule, Palmer told a meeting of the joint meeting of the Belmont Light Board (made up of the Board of Selectmen) and its Advisory Board held at the Beech Street Center.

“Progress has been made, and we are hard at work to have this project up and running by the Spring of 2016,” said Palmer.

While the multimillion dollar project will effect everyone who turns on a switch in their home or business in Belmont, only a handful of rate paying residents showed up for the presentation which reviewed the steps taken so far by the utility and some of the challenges it could face in the future.

Since 2012, Belmont Light has moved on finding a location for the substation and obtaining the property, clearing regulatory hurdles and laying out the best route for the new electrical lines after securing easements and state approval.

“As you can see, we’ve made great progress in a short amount of time,” said Palmer.

The new Belmont Light substation. (credit: Belmont Light)

The new Belmont Light substation. (credit: Belmont Light)

Palmer said the project’s most noticeable accomplishment can be seen at the substation’s new home off Brighton Street on Flanders Road. The building that was once the home of Crate Escape, the dog day care business, has been demolished as the location is being readied for construction.

The town issued a Request for Proposal to build the $5 million, 10,000 sq.-ft. structure with bids due by Oct. 31 with a contract awarded soon afterwards.

“These are huge milestones,” said Palmer.

The new substation – which will house a new 115-kV single loop transmission line – is being built in partnership with the regional utility NSTAR. Rate payers will be on the line for $26.1 million in long-term bonding.

While out of sight, the transmission line bringing power from the substation to homes and businesses is also proceeding, although at a much slower rate. While Belmont Light will lay the line on the south side of the MBTA/Fitchburg commuter rail line, the utility will need to coordinate with the MBTA, which currently has a construction project at the site.

“This could impact our schedule,” said Palmer, saying it’s doubtful both projects could simultaneous work “side-by-side” at the same time.

As part of meeting the project’s regulatory requirements, Belmont Light made an initial presentation to ISO-New England, the independent, non-profit regional transmission organization that operates New England’s power grid and oversees the wholesale electricity market.

“If the project is deemed a benefit to the surrounding communities, which it is, then the cost of the transmission lines will be shared regionally,” said Palmer.

When asked by Slate Street’s Roger Wrubel if a positive ISO response to Belmont Light’s presentations would save either Belmont Light or NSTAR money, Palmer said both entities would benefit in the cost cut.

Moving forward this fall, Palmer said the town has issued a RFP for the transmission lines, and new major electrical equipment will be purchased along with the substation’s contractor named.

And while changing market conditions could increase the cost of construction, Palmer said he believes the contingency set aside in the budget will sufficiently meet any future “surprises,” said Palmer.

Belmont Light Reminds Residents Summer is Outage Season

Belmont Light wants to remind its customers that strong wind and rain events, like those that often occur throughout the summer, may lead to electric power outages.

Its reminder comes following a stormy July 4th weekend during which Light crews were busy restoring service to local residents who were left without power in the aftermath of heavy downpours and stiff winds.

According to Belmont Light Operations Manager Ed Crisafi, several outages occurred prior to and throughout the holiday weekend, beginning during the evening hours of July 3, continuing into the following day, and happening again at the end of the weekend.

Crisafi said the longest outage on both days lasted only about an hour and a half.

“We were able to quickly restore power to those affected on Thursday evening, with cleanup efforts occurring during the early morning hours of July 4th,” Crisafi reported.

He added that, “because our staff was on hand and working so effectively, we were very well prepared when Hurricane Arthur passed to our east later in the day on the 4th.”

A separate event related to an underground cable caused outages on Saturday, but all permanent repairs were resolved by Monday evening.

Belmont Light General Manager James Palmer attributed the swift resolution of the outages to the reliability and dedication of town employees.

“Once again, our crews, public safety, and public works did a great job,” he stated.

Palmer went on to say that while weather-related outages are inconvenient, they should be anticipated—especially during hurricane season. Belmont Light customers should be prepared for severe weather during summer months by taking the following precautionary steps:

Prior to an Outage

  • Make sure you have enough emergency supplies on hand in case you are without power for an extended period of time.
  • Have plenty of fresh batteries and flashlights; don’t use candles during a power outage unless absolutely necessary.
  • Use a portable, battery-powered radio and/or television to be aware of any updates.
  • Get a wind-up or battery-powered clock.
  • Stock up on nonperishable food and plenty of bottled water.
  • Keep cash on hand, ATMs may not work when the power is out.
  • Make sure that everyone knows how to manually open and close any electric security or garage doors.
  • Protect electric equipment, such as computers, FAX machines, televisions, DVD and Blu- ray players and microwaves, by installing surge suppressors or other power protection (smart strip) devices.
  • Have a battery back-up system if your smoke alarms are wired to your home’s electrical system.
  • Have an emergency plan in place if a member of your household depends on life-support or needs other medical equipment. This may include a back-up power source or transportation to another facility.
  • Know how your gas appliances operate. Appliances with electronic ignitions will not work because electricity is needed to ignite the natural gas. Appliances that require fans or other electric devices to run – such as central heating units and gas clothes dryers – won’t work.
  • If a storm is expected, make sure your cell phone, laptop computers and tablet devices are charged.

During an Outage

  • Don’t call 911 to ask about the power outage. Check the neighborhood to see if everyone is without power and then call Belmont Light at 617-993-2800 to report the outage.
  • Stay indoors, but if you do need to go out, use extreme caution, especially on roads without working traffic signals. Be cautious of any downed power lines – they may be live.
  • Keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to prevent food spoilage.
  • Never use your gas grill or charcoal grill indoors for cooking.
  • Shut-off any electronic equipment that was operating when the power went off.
  • Shut-off all your major electric appliances to stabilize the electric system when power is restored.
  • If the power is still on when you go to bed, shut-off electronic equipment such as computers, televisions, DVD/VCRs, microwaves and fax machines.
  • Leave one light on so you know when power is restored.
  • Belmont Light crews will be out in force to restore power as quickly and safely as possible which may not be until the storm has passed.

When Power is Restored

  • Wait a few minutes before turning on major electric appliances. This will help eliminate problems that could occur if there’s a surge in demand immediately after power is restored.
  • If you think that electric power has been restored to your area but your home is still without power, call Belmont Light at 617-993-2800.

If You Own a Generator

  • Never plug a generator into any electric outlets. Generators can feed electricity back into the power lines, causing dangerous conditions for our repair crews. You could damage your appliances or your neighbors’ appliances.

Should you experience an outage, please call Belmont Light at 617-993-2800.

Higher Gas Prices Set to Increase Belmont Light Bills

Despite a record amount of natural gas being pumped out of wells in the US, the combination of higher world-wide demand for the energy source and a colder than expected winter is about to have a very local impact on Belmont homeowners in the coming months.

In what he is calling “unprecedented” increases in gas prices throughout New England, Belmont Light‘s General Manager Jim Palmer is predicting an “immediate escalation in electric rates” in the six-state region, and that includes customers of the municipal utility.

“Unfortunately, customers will see an increase in their bills during the next several months as a result of this unprecedented surge in the winter demand of natural gas. As always, we encourage all our customers to conserve electricity whenever possible,” he said in a recent press release.

The reason for the cost spike is two fold; first, natural gas has recently become the primary resource for electric generation, power and heating throughout New England as homeowners and energy companies transition from “dirty” fuels such as coal and oil. In addition, world-wide demand for natural gas is increasing by about 65 percent for the next quarter century, according to the outlook released by ExxonMobil.

Second, it was cold. During this year’s extremely cold winter, demand for natural gas reached record levels and the region suffered capacity constraints, resulting in drastic price volatility for gas-fired generation, said Palmer.

The result was that regional energy generation costs reached historically high levels, with the average price of natural gas in New England approximately eight times higher than those in other areas of the country.

According to Independent Service Operators of New England (ISO-New England), New England wholesale electric prices in January and February 2014 were the highest they have been in more than a decade. These high wholesale energy production prices have in turn caused increased supply costs for all New England electric utilities.

In the final analysis, Belmont Light customers can expect to see higher-than-usual electric rates in their upcoming bills, said Palmer.

“Belmont Light will continue to monitor the situation with ISO-New England to ensure that our rates remain stable as we deal with the increased costs of purchasing wholesale electricity from the electric grid,” said Palmer.

Palmer is advising customers to visit the Belmont Light’s website for information on financial assistance and energy efficiency programs that might help residents offset some of the costs of the rising electricity prices.