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Belco making fast progress

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Progress update: from left, Belco chief operating officer Denton Williams, Ascendant Group president and chief executive officer Sean Durfy, and Dennis Pimentel, vice-president of grid operations

As of this afternoon, Belco had restored electricity to all but 537 customers, with work expected to continue until Tuesday.

That figure is down from 2,734 yesterday morning and again crews will be working throughout the evening

As of 5pm today less than two per cent remain without power and all schools have had power restored as crews continue to work to quickly to restore the remaining 537 customers. Crews will work through late tonight.

“We expect we will need at one and a half days more working on restoration to get everyone back on Tuesday,” a spokeswoman said. “Some areas are requiring extensive work due to over grown vegetation where we are having to do extensive cutting to get to our equipment to make repairs.

“We are asking customers who may not have already done so, to please report your outage by calling 955 or e-mailing info@belco.bm.

“We recognise this is a difficult time for those still without power and are committed to continue putting all our efforts to this as we get everyone back on supply.”

This morning, the spokeswoman said that many of the customers still without power were in small pockets around the island, noting areas including: Southampton Railway Trail and Camp Hill, Spring Hill, Warwick; Spanish Point (several locations); Ess Hill; Fractious Street; Bostock Hill West; Mullet Bay; West Park Lane; Princess Estate; Happy Valley Road; Bluff Lane; North Shore, Devonshire.

“This is not a complete list but does highlight some of the larger pockets that crews will be working in,” added the spokeswoman. “They will also be assessing and restoring customers in areas that aren’t considered large as they make their way through the restoration process.”

All main lines were restored by 10.30 on Friday night, and Belco has said it will be providing regular updates via the media and Facebook.

“When power is returned to your home or business, bring your appliances and sensitive equipment back online gradually so that you can be sure the service is stable,” said the spokeswoman. “If you have partial power, turn off all the switches in your circuit breaker box and contact Belco. Periodically, check one switch that feeds a 120-volt outlet, such as a light or lamp, so you will know when power has been restored. If you have flickering lights, turn your power off at the Breaker Switch which will turn power off to the entire house or facility.

“We appreciate the patience of those customers who remain without power and continue our focus on getting full restoration complete as quickly and safely as possible.”

Sean Durfy, Ascendant Group chief executive officer, said although Nicole was a Category 3, going on a Category 4 hurricane, “she wasn’t as devastating as she could have been”.

While more than 27,000, or about 90 per cent of Belco’s customers, lost power, crews had started the restoration process by 4.30pm on Thursday..

“We have an obligation to serve. We’ve had that obligation over 100 years and I’m very proud of the people in the organisation.”

Belco chief operating officer Denton Williams praised the “tremendous team” and thanked “every one that enabled us to be here to help out”.

According to Dennis Pimentel, vice-president of grid operations, only 11 poles were reported down, compared to the 202 after Hurricane Gonzalo in 2014.

Mr Williams added that only two transformers were “substantively down, so much lower than we usually have”.

But Mr Pimentel said: “It’s worth noting we haven’t completed our damage assessment, so we do anticipate that we will find a few poles and transformers that will need to be replaced, but nowhere near in the order that we had with Gonzalo and Fay.”

Mr Williams said an island-wide tree-trimming exercise in late August would help the island ride out hurricanes “a lot better”.

However, regarding laying power cables underground, he said “it’s a constant trade-off between cost and practicality”.

He reiterated that it would cause a “significant” cost and disruption and that underground circuit repair could take several days.

“You could be facing that as an alternative to having a 90-minute outage on a regular basis on our overhead system.”

He said the company’s position remained that extensive undergrounding “is not the best solution”.

“But we are opportunistic where it makes sense and we’re kind of in the area and if we can do it, we’ll do it.”