Q: How do utilities work to get power restored after the storm?
A: Throughout the storm, utilities build maps of where in the system people have lost power and, based on the pattern of outages, what equipment has been damaged. As soon as winds die down enough for work to resume, crews fan out to try to reconnect wires, erect new poles, or fix or repair transformers or other equipment. Utilities focus first on repairs that restore power to the highest number of houses. Downed wires that serve only a few houses are the last to get repaired.
Q: Superstorm Sandy's storm surge swamped electrical substations, knocking out power to thousands. Was that a threat this time?
A: There was some concern about flooding, but it did not appear to create major problems in New York and New Jersey, states hit hardest during Sandy. The possibility of flooding did lead to the evacuation of two neighborhoods in Quincy, Mass., south of Boston, and of 20 to 30 people in oceanfront homes in Salisbury in northeastern Massachusetts, authorities in those towns said. But any flooding was expected to be milder than what Sandy wrought.
Q: Did Sandy and the nor'easter that followed a week later make things less dangerous by clearing out the weak and dead branches and trees?
A: Yes. But there's a potential trade-off: The storms may have weakened trees that were previously healthy. Also, there may still be some weak spots in the electrical system where utilities made temporary fixes that they haven't yet been able to secure.
Q: What should homeowners do in the event of an outage?
Report outages as soon as possible. Stay away from downed wires and report them to the utility. If you are running a generator, make sure it is outside to avoid breathing exhaust. If using a portable stove or kerosene heater, make sure there is adequate ventilation. The best way to keep the house warm is to open blinds during the day, but shut them at night, and gather in central rooms, according to the Edison Electric Institute, an industry group.
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