7/8/2014 11:08:00 AM The calm after the storm City's economic aftermath of last week's massive power outage
by Tonya Michalec Staff writer
A powerful storm that arrived with a one, two punch June 30 knocked out power in Braidwood and sparked an economic effect that is still trickling in.
The city is managing fairly well in the aftermath of the outage as costs for cleanup and emergency repairs are slowly tallying up.
Immediate costs are relatively low, with the Public Works Department employees having been called out once for a late three-hour clean up shift. But the ongoing tree limb collection continued through this week, setting workers behind on their regular duties.
According to Jim Hutton, Commissioner of Public Buildings and Property, the top priority of the crews was to make sure the city was up and running. The most important thing was to make the streets safe for travel and removing the piles of downed trees and limbs from sight.
"Since the storm clean up pushed back the mowing, the guys are now behind," Mayor Bill Rulien explained. "There is bound to be some more overtime at some point for all of the mowing - we've got to catch up somewhere."
Also, the city faces extra charges for natural gas usage needed to run emergency generators at the water and sewer plants, as well as to the City Hall and police department.
"Basically we won't know what that will total until we get the bill," said Rob Grivetti, head water operator.
He added that there were some critical power outages for some of the city's wells and lift stations that required the usage of a generator. Those areas were restored by ComEd workers within four hours.
Hutton explained that the water and sewer plants are set on two different ComEd power lines. The line that powers the water plant went out during the second wave of the storm, about 10 p.m., but was up and running again a little over two days later by 2 p.m. on Thursday.
The line feeding the sewer plant never went out, but the generator was operating for back up purposes.
Hardest hit were local businesses who were without power and were left scrambling to save perishable food items.
Residents seeking food and staple were greeted with signs of "No Power" plastered on locked doors Tuesday and Wednesday. All but two of the city's gas stations, it's main grocery market and nearly all of the eateries and small shops were powerless. But some business owners were resilient when it came to helping customers.
Whitmore Ace Hardware was without power until 10 a.m. on Wednesday, yet managed to keep its doors open.
"We never closed down. We got out flashlights for people and rang up purchases on a calculator," said Khrista Mitchell, Ace Hardware assistant manager.
Some shoppers short of cash completed transactions based on "good faith".
Mitchell said Whitmore brought in three truck loads of generators, selling all of them. She said at one point customers were standing and waiting for the deliveries to arrive.
"Normally we don't carry generators but we are thinking about carrying all three types now," Mitchell said.
Matt Doyle, a stock boy, said that the store immediately sold out of essentials like flashlights, batteries, electrical plug attachments (needed for generators) and both 16- and 18-inch chain saw blades.
On the west side of the tracks, Casey's General Store never lost power. It was the only gas station along the city's business corridor that was open during the first 36 hours after the storm. Vehicles bumper to bumper lined up along Main and Mitchell streets, waiting to pull into the pump.
"This place was filled, I had to wait over five minutes just for a parking spot - it was crazy," said Alyssa Hines, Braidwood Casey's kitchen worker.
Make sure to grab a copy of this week's edition of the Braidwood Journal, or subscribe on-line at www.freepressnewspapers.com, to finish reading the remainder of this article.