Pittsfield Has Minimal Sandy Damage; Praises Communications

By Joe DurwinPittsfield Correspondent
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Mayor Daniel Bianchi — flanked by Sheriff Thomas Bowler and Police Chief Michael Wynn — met with his emergency team on Friday morning. Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski, front, is also the city's emergency management director.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city escaped relatively unscathed, according to emergency personnel, though power outages persist here and surrounding communities, and full cleanup of brush and debris is expected to take until the end of the week in some neighborhoods.

"I think overall as a city we did well," said Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski, at a team meeting with Mayor Daniel Bianchi on Tuesday morning.

The department received 42 calls between Monday at 1 p.m. and Tuesday at 6 a.m., with 36 of them storm related, including downed trees, limbs and electrical wires. 

Maintenance officials reported about 15 to 18 downed trees, and workers will be able to better assess others with hanging branches and other issues during the daylight today.  Debris is expected to be fully cleared up by the end of this week to early next week.

The Highway Department will remove downed limbs and branches from private property if the storm debris is pulled to the tree line of the yard beginning Thursday. The mayor's office will announce in advance where the crews will be. Homeowners can also cut trees into 4-foot section for trash pickup. Fallen trees on private property must be handled by private contractors.

There is the possibility of wires entangled in branches; if unsure, call 911 or WMECo to evaluate the tree before attempting to clean it up.

Around 600 customers of Western Mass Electric Co. were still without power in the city as of this morning, and in some sections may not be restored until later in the week. Residents of Allengate Avenue who have lost power because of a wrecked transformer, for example, were informed by WMECo that their power is likely to be restored by late Wednesday. Numerous households in surrounding communities, including but not limited to Lanesborough, Lenox, Hinsdale and Windsor are also still without power.

The new CodeRed system recently instituted in the city was never used as no crucial information arose to be disseminated, said officials. Police Chief Michael Wynn said other communities in the Northeast that had used it had done so primarily for breaking updates such as the opening of emergency shelters or emergency command centers.

Fast Facts
• Nearly 20 trees fell in the city
• The sheriff's dispatch center logged 800 calls
•High winds compromised communications towers on Oak Hill and Lenox Mountain
Several officials voiced appreciation of the ongoing communication and frequent interdepartmental meetings held before and during the start of the storm.

"This was a good exercise in collaborative effort," said Sheriff Thomas Bowler, under whose direction inmates at the Berkshire County House of Correction had prepared approximately 800 sandbags to be made available for any departments that might need them.

While not present at the internal city emergency meetings, local American Red Cross director Kate Leene said coordination with area emergency management had been effective.

"My understanding is that it has gone quite well," Leene told iBerkshires. "Tom Pfeiffer, who is our point person for disaster services here in the Berkshire Chapter has been in continuous communication with the different emergency managers throughout Berkshire County and the mayors as well."

Electronic tools had proved a popular resource locally and nationally, according to Leene, who said that the Red Cross's hurricane app for smart phones had become the second most downloaded application in the country over the past few days.  Leene said the organization had also used Facebook as a way of trying to communicate with the public and other local partners such as the Goodwill Industries, Salvation Army, and United Way.

"I appreciate everyone's efforts," Bianchi told emergency workers. "It's never easy, and it's never pleasant."

Tags: hurricane,   Sandy,   storm,   

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