Governor won’t seek federal disaster status
CRANSTON, R.I. - Rhode Island officials were working yesterday to assess damage from Tropical Storm Irene, which knocked out power to well over half the state’s customers but spared coastal communities from extensive flooding.
Governor Lincoln Chafee took an hourlong tour of Rhode Island by Black Hawk helicopter along with state and federal officials to get the first assessment of what it will take to clear debris and repair damaged power lines. He said he does not expect to seek a federal disaster declaration.
“I’m sure some other states are hit harder. We got spared in a lot of ways. Now we just have to work hard to get the power back on,’’ Chafee said at the emergency operations center in Cranston.
Some flooding along the Blackstone River and in the coastal town of Narragansett could be seen from the air, and many trees were down, blocking roads. But people also had returned to the beaches and golf courses, and surfers were out in force.
Early yesterday, a Coast Guard helicopter rescued a woman who was swept 500 yards from the rocks off Narragansett Beach. A man also was swept into the water but was able to reach shore.
National Grid reported nearly 284,000 customers were without power late yesterday morning, out of about 480,000. That number was expected to shrink throughout the day.
The state’s transit system and T.F. Green Airport were operating, but several school districts said they would delay the scheduled start of classes. About 100 people remained in shelters statewide.
Two major transmission lines, including one near Newport, were damaged and more than 20 substations were down, according to Timothy Horan, National Grid president.