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Downed power lines in communities across the state have many wondering why more lines aren't buried, and whether the effects of Wednesday night's storm are a bad sign for this coming winter. Mike Judge is the director of the state’s Electric Power Division. He spoke with WGBH Radio’s Arun Rath about these worries. This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Arun Rath: So first, some towns do have their lines buried. Could you explain, is it more expensive than having above ground lines?

Mike Judge: It is more expensive. This is a bit of a rough estimate, but it's typically about two to four times more expensive as installing overhead wires.

Rath: And are they more safe or less safe, or about the same in terms of their safety?

Judge: They're probably about the same. The bigger question, I think, comes down to reliability. So in severe weather conditions, an underground wire is obviously generally going to be more protected than an overhead wire. And there's also sometimes less risk of a fire associated with underground wires.

However, sometimes digging and wires underground can cause other safety issues, because there's a lot of things underground and you may not know precisely where they are. So there's a lot of things that come into play when deciding whether or not to have underground or overhead wires.

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Rath: Now, when we’ve been through a situation like this, we wonder, would it be worth the short-term expense to bury all the power lines and maybe save the money that it takes to get the power back on after storms like these?

Judge: Yeah. So it's certainly a consideration. And I think that burying the power lines in certain instances makes a lot of sense. However, there are certain instances where having power lines overhead actually allows for them to be restored faster. When you have overhead lines, they're easier to spot when there's an issue, easier to fix and get people back online. And typically in a lot of situations, you can get people back online within hours, and kind of in the worst case scenarios, sometimes days. When you have an underground wire, if that wire fails for some reason or there's some issue, it can actually take a lot longer to replace the underground wire and be more expensive. So again, it’s this challenging balancing effort, I think, that comes into play when you're talking about cost and reliability.

Rath: Do we have an understanding of why so many people lost power last night? I think a lot of people were surprised this morning because, you know, we've had really heavy snow sometimes with fewer outages.

Judge: I think the wind gusts in particular were a big factor. And there are still a lot of leaves on the trees, too. It was a very wet and windy storm. And there were more outages than were actually expected, I think, by a lot of people. But people are actively underway trying to correct that and get things back online.

Rath: Should people be worried about winter, or is this more of a freak windstorm?

Judge: I don't necessarily think that people should be more worried about winter or anything because of this event. I think the state has very robust processes in place for storm management, and outage management works very closely with the utility companies prior to storms coming in and during storm events and after storm events. So we get hourly updates from them on outages. We typically are watching these situations very closely and trying to restore service as quickly as possible.

Rath: And, when we're facing a situation like this, other than burying the power lines, are there other things that can be done infrastructure-wise to make the grid more resilient?

Judge: Absolutely. So one thing the state has done, and has spent a lot of time working on, is grid modernization efforts.

So last year, the Department of Public Utilities approved a series of measures that the utilities will be working on, installing over the next few years, that will improve automation on the electric grid, increase the ability for the grid to self heal and provide better information to the utilities on where power outages are when they occur, allow for the replacement of aging infrastructure and create greater flexibility in their planning processes. And additionally, support things like solar energy and energy storage, which can provide greater resiliency in outage situations. In fact, there's a number of energy storage projects that were approved for installation on the Cape and Islands, in particular, that are designed specifically to help avoid outages.