It was a miracle of sorts on a busy Albany street. Two light poles collapsed Tuesday afternoon, falling into traffic, but no one was hurt.
Potential tragedy was avoided.
New Scotland Avenue is a main artery through the city of Albany. When a pair of National Grid-owned and maintained streetlights came down, by chance there were no pedestrians, no cars, no CDTA buses in their paths. Patrick Stella is a spokesman for National Grid. "We did go down there. We had crews down there very quickly to assess the situation. And over the last couple of days we've done some inspections of poles in the area. And in addition to those two poles that had fallen, we replaced those two poles, we replaced two additional poles as well. At this time it is really difficult to tell how the poles fell or why. We do know that there was some storm activity in the area."
Eyewitnesses who watched from a nearby store said one pole toppled over, yanking a power line attached to it, which, in turn, pulled down the next pole up the street.
Ninth ward councilperson Judy Doesschate credits neighbors with directing traffic and calling for help moments after the first pole came down. "I'm continuing to look forward to working with National Grid and the mayor's office and DGS to make sure that we're doing proper inspections because it certainly raises significant concerns that that could happen out of the blue and it looks to me like whatever National Grid has been doing to date has not been sufficient to make sure that kind of thing didn't happen."
Stella notes that a passing storm may have had an impact; however, the poles showed obvious rust and corrosion at their bases. "We do not see this kind of thing happen very often unless there is major storm activity or something like that. We don't really keep statistics on it or anything like that because it happens so rarely. We do have a physical inspection process of our street light poles. We inspect those poles every five years. But the poles that fell down on tuesday were last inspected in 2013, and at that time there was no recommendation for the poles to be replaced."
John Maserjian, a spokesman for Central Hudson, adds that public safety is the No. 1 concern of utility companies throughout the Northeast. "There's ongoing maintenance of all utility facilities. In fact there's also a program called 'stray voltage' where utility companies including Central Hudson will test each of their poles to ensure that there's no electricity 'leaking' from that facility, and we also test municipal poles. Not all poles are owned by utilities, some are owned by municipalities as well, and we'll test those too."
Poles with signs of aging or deterioration are tagged for repair or replacement as needed. Stella says National Grid does likewise and even YOU can help. "Anybody who sees a pole that they think looks questionable or looks like there could be a problem, that could be a wood pole or a metal pole, give us a call, we will go out and inspect those as well. All of those things and everybody being aware of what's going on out there helps us."
Patrick Stella sent WAMC this article and photo from the Times Union which he explains shows that "we did indeed have a storm system moving through the area around 1:30 p.m. Tuesday afternoon which certainly caused damage around the area and could have been a factor in the street light poles that came down on Tuesday."