WESTERLY—Governor Lincoln Chafee addressed the media Tuesday afternoon after taking a tour of the towns on Rhode Island’s southern coast hit by Hurricane Sandy. Having visited Narragansett Pier in the morning, Chafee then traveled to assess the damage at locations such as the Charlestown Breach way and Misquamicut Beach.
“We did have the advantage of a lot of early warning good collaboration with the Feds, particularly FEMA with the local team,” said Chafee. “Now that the storm has passed, we have been traveling along the most heavily hit areas, and the facts are that it has gotten worse and worse as we’ve traveled closer to the Connecticut border.”
“Charlestown was devastated, and it is a completely different beach there,” he added. “Houses will probably have to be condemned and are lost. We really got hit in these coastal areas.”
Chafee was joined by Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, as well as Congressman James Langevin and Rhode Island Senator Dennis Algiere. Chafee was particularly astonished at the amount of damage done at Misquamicut State Beach, stating that a number of businesses there have been significantly impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
“I shared Rhode Island’s situation with President Obama,” said Chafee. “Westerly seemed to take the most damage, and those businesses in Misquamicut are in shock.”
“We were here in Irene, and this is significantly worse,” he added. “There is nothing like this for those who were here last year, and that was bad last year.”
Westerly Town Manager Steven T. Hartford also spoke on Tuesday, stating the present conditions and efforts that are ongoing to improve accessibility, safety and restore power.
“I know that everyone is concerned about their properties and want to get back, especially in Misquamicut where things are very concerning,” said Hartford. “We spent at least one night in Darkness last night and our residents will probably be in darkness tonight, but we wanted to get the word out that we are making progress.”
“We have many crews here from National Grid and they are making progress,” he added. “We have come down slightly from 13,500 below 11,000 customers without service, so we are making headway. Keep up the faith and we will get there.”
Hartford stated that Watch Hill roads were to be cleared and free to public access by Tuesday afternoon, but in concurrence with Chafee admitted that the Misquamicut Beach area would prove a more challenging fix.
“Misquamicut will be at least another day if not two,” said Hartford. “The roads are too inundated with sand and debris, and emergency crews need to look at the structures and get the roads open.”
“You can’t even physically get down there now with all the debris in the road ways,” he added.
National Grid Rhode Island President Tim Horan also provided an update regarding the restoration of power in towns along Rhode Island’s southern coastline, stating that 70,000 to 80,000 customers were still without power as of Tuesday afternoon and that power outages could persist well into the later part of this week.
“We have quite a few crews around the state and we know there are the major issues here along the coast, so that is where we are continuing to bring across resources,” said Horan. “Across the state, we had nine substations that went flat. We have four back at this point and our goal is to get those back today, which will get so many more customers in the southern regions addressed.”
“As we get these sub-stations and feeders back online, you will see [power outage] numbers drop,” he added. “Today and tomorrow are big days to get as many customers as we can get back, but this will go on later into the week.”
Congressman Langevin provided a brief update as well regarding the conditions on Block Island, stating that one road was out and that there was concern about a shortage in the fuel supply as power outages take longer to be addressed. No injuries or deaths were reported there.
In closing, Chafee reassured the public that communication with state, federal and local agencies would continue and that the hard work of those groups would bear fruits in the cleanup effort after Hurricane Sandy.
“This has been a team effort,” said Chafee. “I can pledge the support of the state that we are going to hustle as hard as your localities are hustling. It is really impressive to see.”