Special Report: Pole Problems
It was one July afternoon, Marcelle Joffe will never forget, the day five utility poles came thundering down in Newton Center while her granddaughter was in the car.
"Then the next thing, a tremendous crash and one was right on the car," Joffe said. "She was just screaming. She was absolutely petrified. It was a thunderous noise. It was just unbelievable."
Two weeks before, a similar scare in Burlington when two poles toppled over, trapping an elderly woman in a hot car for 45 minutes.
"They just smashed and crackle, crackle," Kelly Huntoon who witnessed the pole crash said. "I didn't know what to think, I was beside myself."
7News obtained police reports for both accidents, the cause? Police say tractor trailer trucks snagged low hanging wires. In Burlington one resident says he reported the low wire to the utility company one-month before the poles came down. He says the wire was never fixed.
"It makes you feel like nobody's doing their job," Burlington resident Jeremy Huntoon said.
In Brookline, another pole down. This time, no trucks or cars are involved. Was it rotten? One resident says the pole hadn't been replaced in more than 30 years.
"It was completely sheered off. You would think that it did hit something, but there was no one here," Brookline resident Jack Langdon said.
Despite the tremendous danger, fortunately no one was killed or injured in any of these accidents, but some worry it may only be a matter of time.
"Let's hope somebody doesn't get hurt before they start doing something," Langdon said.
The utility companies tell 7News they've spent more than a billion on maintenance and upgrades through the years, and safety is a top priority. But several utility union members say the companies are not doing enough.
"This one's (a utility pole) is in pretty tough shape, you can pretty much tell by looking," Bob Senier said.
Senier works as a utility troubleshooter. He showed us what he calls several bad poles and wires in Roslindale. He says these can be found in almost any city or town.
"This is just unacceptable," Senier said.
Here's what to look for:
- low hanging wires
- old poles that look rotten
"This red mark with the arrow, that's signaling that the pole is no good," Senier said.
Tilting poles that lean toward the street or have tight wires that seem to be holding them up.
"A lot of the time, the pole can be broken off at the base, and that tight wire could be holding the pole up," Senier said.
Also keep an eye on what's called ‘double poles.’ This is when a new pole is attached to a weak one. It's Illegal for these to be on Massachusetts streets for more than 90 days.
Paying closer attention could help your neighborhood avoid these pole problems.
To report bad poles or low wires in your neighborhood, call your city or town hall. They will be able to tell you which company owns the pole and how to get in touch with them.
City of Boston Electrical Safety Task Force
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