Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UM struggles to cope with effects from storm

Lindsey Davis/Collegian
Lindsey Davis/Collegian

When a rare October nor’easter toppled trees and thrashed the Pioneer Valley, it knocked out a heavy amount of powerlines and left many students – including those of the University of Massachusetts – and residents alike without power.

But yesterday, more and more people regained power.

Amherst Center, University Drive, College Street and portions of North and South Amherst got power back yesterday, according to the town. However, as of 4 p.m. yesterday, approximately 4,800 Amherst customers of Western Massachusetts Electric Company are still without power according to WMECO spokeswoman Sandra Ahearn.

In addition to knocking out power, the storm caused damages and injuries throughout the region. According to UMass Police Department Deputy Chief Patrick Archbald, two students were injured on Saturday night when a tree limb fell on them while playing outside. They were transported to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton.

In addition, Archbald reported that 16 cars of Sunset and Fearing Street suffered “moderate to severe” damage consisting mainly of smashed windows and dented roofs. No estimates were made on the cost of the damage.

Despite the power outages, injuries and damages, UMass still held classes yesterday. Students were sent an email informing them of this and of the shelter locations in the community.

“This will be a transitional period,” said UMass spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski. “Anytime you are in the midst of a storm of this magnitude and getting back to normal, there is going to be a period of time where not everyone can get to class.”

If students were to head to class, the email sent to students said “to exercise caution in deciding whether it is safe, given their specific circumstances, to commute to campus,” according to Blaguszewski.

Since the storm, UMass has kept the Campus Center open 24 hours a day to provide a warm place for students to eat and recharge their devices.

Junior Mike Dotolo was at the Blue Wall Tuesday night, carrying a blue-striped pillow under his arm and a backpack, having been without power since the storm hit Saturday night.

“I woke up Saturday morning and it was freezing in my apartment,” said Dotolo. “I really didn’t know what to do. My friends and I … tried to get gas and all the gas stations were out of gas. We didn’t want to sleep in our apartment because it was absolutely freezing. I ended up sleeping in Southwest, in my friend’s room.” His power was restored yesterday.

However, many students living off-campus are not as fortunate as Dotolo and still without electricity, utilizing on-campus resources at the Campus Center, the Blue Wall and the Off-Campus Student Center to eat and stay warm.

The Off-Campus Student Center, located downstairs in the Student Union, was offering free pizza and bottled water to off-campus students still without power. Students were free to gather and use their computers while getting a free meal.

Associate Dean for Graduate and Off Campus Students David C. Vaillancourt said the purpose was entirely to help students who are still struggling with a lack of electricity.

“We decided this morning to do something to support off-campus students who are without electricity,” said Vaillancourt. “They can come here to gather and hang out.”

One of those displaced students was junior Tyler Gallon who lives on Summer Street and has been without power since Sunday night.

Gallon said he took advantage of the free food offered as he “had to come to campus to find food.”

Food is not the only amenity that many students are still lacking.  Since there is no electricity, people have been forced to take cold showers causing UMass to open showers in the Mullins Center on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

According to a release from the UMass Office of Emergency Management, students who wish to shower need to bring their own towel and toiletries and should expect to wait in line.

Regionally, 90,000 people are still without power. Thus far, power has been restored to about 66,000 to 67,000 customers said WMECO’s Ahearn.

“We are predicting most customers will have it by Thursday, but in the areas that were hit particularly hard, like Springfield, it might be as late as Friday or Saturday,” said Ahearn. “We are bringing in more power crews and hoping we will be able to readjust those estimates and lessen them.”

Currently, WMECO’s field force is four times more than its usual amount. Trucks are still coming in from Michigan, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kansas and Missouri, which will bring the field force to seven times the normal amount.

Massachusetts is still in a state of emergency and will remain as such until the national guardsmen are no longer needed, said Peter Judge, a spokesman for Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

In order to stay safe, Judge recommended that people without power call 211 to get information about local shelters which, he said, about 2,000 people stayed in last night. He also cautioned people who have generators to make sure they are in a well-ventilated area as at least one death has been confirmed from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Steffi Porter can be reached at [email protected]. Katie Landeck can be reached at [email protected].


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