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Local snowmobilers help out eastern towns

Photo credit Scott Sumner
Jeffrey Miller of Bernardston stands with the Bernardston-Gill-Leyden Snowmobile Club’s trail grooming truck at the NSTAR utility staging area in Plymouth.

Photo credit Scott Sumner Jeffrey Miller of Bernardston stands with the Bernardston-Gill-Leyden Snowmobile Club’s trail grooming truck at the NSTAR utility staging area in Plymouth.

While the weekend’s snowstorm left Franklin County blanketed but largely unscathed, the eastern part of the state was not so fortunate.

“We did see lots of large trees on houses, lots of house damage, lots of trees on lines, lines down. It was pretty well a war zone yesterday,” said Scott Sumner of Conway, describing the scene in the coastal towns of Duxbury and Marshfield Monday.

Sumner and Jeffrey Miller, of Bernardston, returned Monday from a two-day stint as volunteers lending their expertise and local snowmobile club equipment to ferry utility company engineers inspecting the transmission lines in an effort to restore power to thousands.

On Tuesday, almost 19,000 NSTAR customers remained without power according to the utility’s figures, including 3,170 in Marshfield and 1,208 in Duxbury.

Sumner and Miller, members of the Conway and Bernardston-Gill-Leyden snowmobile clubs, respectively, headed east Saturday in response to a request for help from the utility.

Snowmobile Association of Massachusetts Executive Director Rena Sumner said Scott Sumner, her husband, and Miller were the first of seven SAM members to head down and the last to return from the trip. The other five were members of the Spencer-based Snowbirds Snowmobile Club.

The association is composed of 30 such clubs, most in the central and western part of the state, and Rena Sumner said they were contacted by NSTAR for volunteers and equipment following the storm.

Scott Sumner said the two worked in Carver Sunday after a late arrival Saturday, then moved on to Duxbury and Marshfield.

Using the Bernardston-Gill-Leyden club’s tracked snow truck, usually employed to groom trails, they ferried engineers to areas along the high tension lines otherwise not easily accessible due to the deep snow.

“They did a helicopter fly-over to identify any potential problems and then we would have to take the engineer out so they could review the situation and find out if they had broken switches or lines down or that type of thing to verify what the helicopter was seeing,” Sumner said.

Both said they were happy to be able to help.

“It was a lot of fun to do it. It was nice to do something to help. We do snowmobiling because we love it and we enjoy it, but it was nice to do what we enjoy to help other people,” Miller said. “That’s something that we don’t get to do very often but we also want people to be aware that we’re there to help in an emergency.”

Rena Sumner said the club association doesn’t have an official structure in place to volunteer in emergencies, but it isn’t uncommon that they are called upon to help.

“This was the first time that we’ve worked with NSTAR or in this big of an event, but often our clubs are called out to the woods to help a cross country skier or other kind of event out in the woods,” she said.

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