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Hurricane Sandy Updates – Wednesday, Oct. 31

South Kingstown and Narragansett continue to clean up in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

7:06 p.m. – Okay folks, we’re going to be finishing up with the updates soon. I’m pretty beat, and I need to get some rest! Thank you to everyone who followed along today.

To tie up some loose ends:

- As of 7 p.m., Narragansett still hadn’t made a decision about whether school was on or off. When that does come down the pike, we will announce it on our Twitter and Facebook.

- Tomorrow, we go back to more of a “normal” news day. While there is still going to be Sandy-related coverage, I think we’ve covered the damage as adequately as we can, and the renovation and rebuilding stories can be parceled out a bit more evenly over the next few days and weeks.

So, yes, there will be a police beat tomorrow. Two, in fact, as long as I’m able to make my usual rounds. I will still be providing some Sandy info though, and keep sending your photos to Stephen.greenwell@patch.com.

- Tomorrow will also mark the return of another big thing: our election coverage. During the hurricane, I put the letters to the editor aside, because I didn’t want it to look like candidates were trying to curry favor or capitalize on the popularity of the site because of the hurricane.

As a result, we have a lot of letters to run. And by “a lot,” I mean probably four to eight tomorrow, and another batch on Friday, and another batch on the weekend, and another batch on Monday.

If you liked our hurricane coverage, then please stick with us for the election next week. I will be live blogging from a town hall on Election Night, along with another Patch freelancer, hopefully.

That’s all for now, folks. Stay safe, and stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter feeds for any further information tonight.

3:50 p.m. – Via a press release, the Town of South Kingstown is asking everyone to stay home for tonight, and to instead Trick or Treat and celebrate Halloween on Saturday.

The initial notice came to us from the South Kingstown School Department and the South Kingstown Emergency Management Agency at about 2:52 p.m. It read as follows:

Residents are asked to postpone the celebration of Halloween until Saturday because of downed trees and power lines from Hurricane Sandy and the lack of electricity throughout our community.

The combination makes it unsafe for children to trick or treat at this time.

Thank you for your cooperation and patience.

1:27 p.m. – The Rhode Island Attorney’s General office has issued this press release about watching for fraud and price gouging:

As Rhode Islanders continue to clean up from super storm Sandy and a state of emergency is still in effect, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin reminds all retail sellers, whether individual business owners or corporations, not to try to profit from the storm. 

Rhode Island General Laws 6-13-21 broadly prohibits all retail sellers from increasing prices of any item immediately prior to or during a declared state of emergency by an amount that represents an unconscionably high price.

The maximum penalty for those found to have violated the statute is a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000) per violation with an aggregate total not to exceed twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000) for any twenty-four (24) hour period.

“While we have not received any complaints as of yet, it is important to remind everyone to be aware of potential price gouging and to report any incidents to our office,” Kilmartin said. “I know that the majority of Rhode Islanders do not take this attitude, but unfortunately, sometimes in a crisis there are those who seek to take advantage of the situation.”

Anyone who feels they have been the victim of price gouging just before or during the state of emergency declared by Governor Chafee should contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit at (401) 274-4400. 

They should be able to identify what they purchased, when and where they purchased it, the price they paid and why they feel that price was recently increased.

In addition to the potential for price gouging, Attorney General Kilmartin offers consumers tips to protect from being ripped off by unscrupulous contractors.

  • In the event of power outages and downed tree limbs, utility workers will be working to clear debris and restore utilities across Rhode Island.  Be cautious when allowing workers into your house.  Any utility worker who is above-board will have identification and will not have a problem showing it to you.  
  • Be wary of contractors going door to door offering assistance.  Avoid any contractors who stop by your house and claim that they have extra materials and offer a big discount.
  • Be wary of contractors that only accept cash.  Reputable contractors will accept checks or credit cards.
  • Check out a contractor before signing a contract or turning over any money. Homeowners should check with the Rhode Island Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board by calling (401) 222-1268 to ensure that a contractor is properly licensed and registered.
  • Get all quotes, estimates and work details in writing. This includes a written contract outlining all of the work that the contractor has agreed to perform, the dates the work will begin and is expected to be completed, the total cost of the work, the type and quality of materials to be used, how and when payments will be made and the provisions of warranties on the materials and labor.
  • Ask for proof of insurance, and make sure the contractor carries general liability and workers’ compensation. If the contractor is not insured, you may be liable for accidents occurring on your property.
  • Avoid contractors that require you to pay for everything up front before they begin any work and never pay in cash. Scam artists will take the money and run. If you have to make a partial payment in advance for materials, make the check out to the supplier and the contractor or pay with a credit card.

Talk to your insurance company, read your insurance policy and contact the Division of Business Regulations/Insurance Division at (401) 462-9532 with any concerns.

About the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit

The Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Unit investigates and mediates consumer complaints concerning unfair and unlawful business practices and misleading advertising arising out of alleged violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

If groups of people are victimized by a deceptive trade practice, this office may file in the Superior Court a civil investigative demand, which is a formal investigation. In appropriate cases, a lawsuit to stop the illegal business practice may be initiated.

Apart from carrying out its statutory responsibilities, the Unit also provides information and referral services to the general public. Consumers are directed to the appropriate governmental or private agencies for help in answering specialized questions or resolving disputes that are not within the Unit's jurisdiction.

The Consumer Protection Unit is available to speak to community groups on how to prevent being a victim of identity theft and other scams.  If you believe you are a victim of consumer fraud, please contact the Consumer Protection Unit by calling 401-274-4400 or email at contactus@riag.ri.gov.

11:56 a.m. – Here is the statement we received from Narragansett Police Captain William McGovern about Halloween, which echoes remarks by Governor Lincoln Chafee:

  • The Narragansett Police are urging parents to use caution in allowing their children to go out on Halloween after dark. There are still the remnant from Hurricane Sandy including fallen trees and downed power line along the roadways and sidewalks. We experienced widespread power outages throughout town with some neighborhoods still without power. We are urging parents to exercise caution and common sense.

And as a reminder – The government DOESN’T set Halloween, anymore than it sets Thanksgiving or Christmas or any other sort of communal holiday.

What I mean by this – If there’s enough agreement that you want to go Trick-Or-Treating on another day, you CAN just do it. Organize an event with your friends, arrange to go to each other’s houses instead, or just go to houses on your own. Given the storm, it would shock me if people aren’t cognizant and understanding.

9:28 a.m. – We’ve been asked to share this opportunity for community service, from Elise Hamann of Serve Rhode Island:

The University of Rhode Island is seeking volunteers to serve as Fire Watch Detail in URI housing in Kingston. There are 19 residential facilities without power that need to be supervised 24/7.

Those on Fire Watch Detail will walk the building hourly to inspect the fire alarm system and will be asked to keep an updated log. They will be expected to respond to any emergencies that might occur and to notify the fire department and building occupants as necessary.

Starting TODAY, Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 4 p.m., volunteers will potentially be needed to work four-hour shifts through the night, depending on when power returns to URI campus

The shifts are: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., 8 p.m. to midnight, midnight to 4 a.m., and 4 a.m. to 8 a.m.

Volunteers will be asked to come to the URI Public Safety Building 15 minutes prior to your shift for a brief orientation.

To sign up for a four-hour shift, visit www.surveymonkey.com/s/N3B9N83 or contact Serve Rhode Island at (401) 331-2298.

Thank you very much.

8:55 a.m. – A few updates this morning, before I venture from the coffee shop out into the world, since it’s finally light enough to take some photos.

- I’ve gotten a report from Patch contributor Cheryl Butler that some more power has been restored to portions of the North End. She said she gained it back this morning, thankfully, given that she has eight kids (and a dog) in the house.

- National Grid still hasn’t updated its online map with power restoration estimates, but each time I look the number of customers without power trickles down.

Right now, 64,218 customers statewide are without power – Last night, before I went to bed, it was around 75,000, I believe.

However, the numbers haven’t been updated since 5:29 a.m., and I’ve gotten first hand reports from people in Narragansett and South Kingstown that their power has come back, even though it shows as off on the map.

Reader Mary Tefft reports that she saw lots of National Grid trucks driving about in Wakefield, including one on School Street at about 4 a.m. with its spotlight on.

- The South County Independent continues to update its Facebook page with some great information. If you like the coverage we’re doing, you’ll love what they’re offering as well. Be sure to pick up their issue when it hits newsstands on Thursday!

The Westerly Sun is also providing good updates on its Facebook page, if you wanted to know information about that area.

5:30 a.m. – Hello there folks, and thanks for following along with us for another day of Hurricane Sandy coverage. Hopefully, this will be the last day of it, at least when it comes to the immediate aftermath.

I’ve added several pictures that came in late last night, or that were leftover from oversights earlier in the day. The photos I’ve seen since Monday have been breathtaking, although, often for unfortunate reasons. Just like on Monday and Tuesday, you can add your own photos by clicking the button at the top of the page.

If you’re looking for our 141-picture gallery and aftermath coverage from Tuesday, click here. Our 48-picture gallery and active hurricane coverage Monday can be found here.

Here are the news and notes for today:

- My initial plan of attack is to focus on places I haven’t been able to visit directly. That would be Matunuck, Green Harbor, Highland Avenue in Wakefield, Jerusalem, Snug Harbor and other points in South Kingstown.

Yesterday afternoon, I was able to visit most of Narragansett, and East Greenwich Patch Local Editor Elizabeth McNamara traveled to Kingston to take photos and chat with people.

In my travels, I saw the damage to the sea wall – a roughly 30-foot portion – and the Coast Guard House firsthand. I also saw Great Island, Sand Hill Cove, Breakwater Village and portions of Galilee.

All of those places seemed to avoid the massive damage experienced in Matunuck. However, there was still damage – lots of shingles and roof tiles scattered in neighbors, and all I could see was exteriors, obviously. After a hurricane, you always have to worry about interior damage caused by flooding and foundation issues.

Like Tuesday, you can expect a flurry of updates, followed by a few hours of relative silence, as I travel and take some photos. If it’s important or just some quick knowledge you want, please utilize the Narragansett Patch Twitter handle. Tweets to that account go directly to my phone, usually.

- There is no school in Narragansett and South Kingstown, but University of Rhode Island students are expected to be at class. If you can’t make it, please contact your professors – They have been told by provosts to be understanding about power and safety issues involving off-campus students.

When it comes to Patch stuff, PLEASE use our events calendar with caution for the rest of the week. If you’re interested in an event, you should call ahead, to make sure the hosting organization or location still has power, and still plans on hosting it.

- We haven’t received any word yet on whether towns plan to “reschedule” Halloween. As a friendly suggestion though, most homes in North Kingstown and East Greenwich still have power, and the further north you go, the more homes with power there are.

- Speaking of power issues, National Grid’s online outage webpage still doesn’t list restoration estimations, unfortunately.

However, people in Narragansett at Briggs Farm and near Bonnet Shores reported getting power back, as did people in West Kingston and Richmond. Neither “outage” has been corrected on the online page as of early Wednesday, so it seems they’re backed up a bit.

- Finally, RIEMA sent out this press release about reporting property damage claims:

Many Rhode Islanders have been impacted by the weather conditions of Hurricane Sandy. As a result, homeowners (especially those along the coast) have sustained damage to their property. The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency is partnering with Rhode Island United Way’s 2-1-1 to collect reports from homeowners and businesses.

Filing reports via 2-1-1 helps the state to seek disaster assistance for individuals. (Filing a damage report does not guarantee federal or state assistance.) Callers will need to provide demographic information and an overview of the damages to the property or business.

For regularly updated information on Hurricane Sandy response efforts, visit www.riema.ri.gov or call 211.

Govstench November 01, 2012 at 02:19 AM
Stephen - NGrid's map does have many errors and in fact their math doesn't add up on the website. Regarding the accuracy, no question that the map will lag behind what is actually going on in the field. Perhaps the field supervisors do not relay the restoration counts into the system quick enough - they have on-board computers in those trucks. (Used to work for them years ago - got smart and retired!)
Govstench November 01, 2012 at 11:55 AM
The 7 am stats on NGrid's website clearly shows where the heavy damage is. With the four other counties well up in the high 90's percentile for completion, Washington County remains at 74% in service. NGrid reported that none substations were knocked out of service and only one or two were still out. Perhaps this is what is making the restoration effort so slow.
Stephen Greenwell November 01, 2012 at 11:57 AM
Hey Gov, I updated our article for today's coverage with those numbers: http://patch.com/A-zk3B And yeah, I think the individual line damage is what's causing the issues. Like the longest restoration times are non-business districts with significant tree damage - Ocean Road, North Road in SK, throughout Charlestown. I'm near Scarborough, so unfortunately, I don't think I'll be getting back until Friday, it looks like.
Govstench November 01, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Yeah Steve, NGrid is continuing the progress in Narragansett - presently at 83.7% w/1,712 to go. They have picked up 2,500 statewide since noon time today. I am sure they are sending more crews south as the county numbers up north approach 100%.
Stephen Greenwell November 01, 2012 at 08:36 PM
@ Gov - Man, I sure hope so. At least the restoration of power everywhere else has a nice cascade effect, and I no longer have to fight for an outlet at the coffee shop.

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