Power returning slowly, but many still in dark
As of 1 p.m., Connecticut Light & Power had restored power to more than 169,000 customers, but there are still more than 455,000 customers without power, a company spokesperson said this afternoon.
One thousand people from utility crews as far away as British Columbia and Washington state arrived in Connecticut well in advance of the storm as the utility company prepared for the effects of Hurricane Sandy.
"It was one of the major preparedness measures we took," Theresa Gilbert said this afternoon.
According to the company's outage map, between 91 and 100 percent of residents in Stonington, East Lyme, Lyme, Montville, Salem, East Haddam, Chester, Deep River, Westbrook and Clinton are without power.
"Along the shore there is extensive and severe damage. Crews have been out all day," Gilbert said. "We're working very closely with the towns and the state to clear debris from the roads. Clearing blocked roads is the first priority for public safety and to make sure we can make repairs."
First Selectman Paul Formica said the town's CL&P liaison has been working with the town throughout the storm.
He said 97 percent of residents are without power and CL&P is working to restore power along the "main legs," such as Route 161 and Route 1.
"They've been very cooperative," Formica said of CL&P.
While he said the utility got a slower start than the town would have hoped, crews will be working through Tuesday evening.
More than 88 percent of residents have power, Mayor Marian Galbraith said this afternoon.
She said the city is continuing to work with crews from Groton Utilities and that this year's emergency utility response to the city's outages has been "remarkable."
"They've been out working since 7 this morning, and we're going to bring them in to feed them soon," she said. "We're going to assess soon what we're going to be able to do after dark."
She said there are isolated areas in the city where significant pole damage occurred by falling trees and that is the remaining "large hunk" of people in the city without power.
Mayoral Assistant Mark Bancroft said several CL&P crews are in town working on a large swath of power outages in town, with the CL&P outage map reporting about 4785 — or 72 percent — of customers out of power at about 4 p.m.
Bancroft said the number fluctuates based on repairs made, with crews sometimes shutting down a neighborhood to make repairs on another before restoring power to both. A CL&P representative is still in town coordinating with emergency management personnel.
"We anticipate that we will just keep dropping the percentage down every hour," he said. "We're making good progress."
Most of the damage in town consists of downed power lines, he said, with few broken poles or transformers out of commission.
Both Ledyard Center and Gales Ferry have power, with all commercial stores and restaurants open.
Montville's public schools will be closed Wednesday and firehouses are open for people who wish to take showers, fill up water jugs or charge their cell phones.
Connecticut Light & Power as of 3:30 this afternoon reported that 78 percent (6,307 customers) of the town was without power.
Raymond Occhialini, the town's fire marshal and emergency response director, said the Montville, Oakdale and Mohegan Firehouses are open for people who need to fill water bottles. Starting tomorrow people can also drop off debris at the corner of Oxoboxo Dam Road near Camp Oakdale.
Occhialini said six different houses in town had tree limbs penetrate roofs during Hurricane Sandy. Power restoration throughout the town also has been complicated by the fact that the town's CL&P liaison is covering three different towns and is not stationed at the town emergency operations center, Occhialini said.
The Leonard J. Tyl Middle School will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday for people to take showers.
First Selectman Nick Mullane said just one CL&P crew is in town working on outages that affect 1,796 — or 70 percent — of customers as of about 4 p.m.
While there is a CL&P representative is in town coordinating with public works crews, Mullane said about 30 to 35 locations where downed trees and tangled wires are still blocking roads. Personnel clearing debris from roadways are limited in what they can do until the power lines are taken care of, Mullane said, and the work is slowgoing.
"We're not making much progress," he said.
Norwich Public Utilities reported that crews from the city and from far away as Indiana have made "significant progress" restoring power to city customers today, bringing the number of outages down from a peak of 5,937 to 3,116 as of 1 p.m.
"We would like to remind everyone that even though the storm has passed, the lingering wind and rain can cause additional hazards," NPU spokesman Michael Hughes said. "Please use extreme caution when cleaning any debris from your property or travelling on roadways."
Anyone who sees a downed wire in Norwich is asked to call (860) 887-2555 and to assume the wire is live and unsafe to touch.
The Norwich Emergency Operations Center remains open and communication among the various departments staffing has led to efficient handling of storm response issues, Hughes said.
For information about power restoration time frames, contact NPU using social media, Facebook and Twitter, keeping phone lines clear for emergencies, Hughes said. Staff is monitoring social media and will respond to inquiries.
Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon said the liaison system with CL&P has been "marginal" in the aftermath of the storm, which at peak knocked out power to more than 90 percent of Preston customers.
"I think communication has a lot to be desired," Congdon said after a 4 p.m. conference call with state emergency officials on the storm response.
During the conference call, Congdon said officials were told the liaisons could call up on computers the exact locations of every truck in town, but "that has not been the case," he said.
"We did not have crews working in town first thing this morning as promised," he said.
As of 5 p.m., CL&P reported 67 percent of Preston without power. While that number has dropped throughout the day, Congdon said he believed the number really hasn't changed and the map was slow to report the number from this morning.
Two CL&P crews are working in Preston this evening clearing downed wires from tangled tree limbs – the first task that must be done. No crews are working to actually restore service at this time, he said.
In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, First Selectman Ed Haberek was one of CL&P's biggest supporters, saying the company's liaison to the town helped get power restored here quicker than in surrounding towns.
Haberek's praise resulted in him being criticized by some of his fellow mayors and selectmen who were upset by the lack of response by the power company.
Late this afternoon during a meeting with officials at the town's emergency operations center, Haberek was no longer in CL&P's corner since 95 percent of residents remain without power and the utility had just one line crew and one tree crew in town all day.
"That's totally unacceptable," Haberek said. "I'm completely dissatisfied with the situation right now. I was the biggest supporter of CL&P the last time and now I've got thrown under the bus."
He reiterated those feelings during a conference call a few minutes later with CL&P officials, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and officials from communities across the state.
Haberek said the town's highway department crews are doing a great job clearing roads but CL&P crews are not there to follow up with line repair and power restoration.
He said the power company's lack of response is baffling considering comments by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy that southeastern Connecticut is the hardest in all the state.
Rich Rogozinski, the CL&P liasion assigned to the town's emergency operations center, said this afternoon he agreed with Haberek.
"Based on what we know now, Stonington got hit harder than other towns in the state," he said, adding that he updated CL&P officials about the need in Stonington but it was difficult to get additional resources here during the day.
He said he anticipates more power crews will be in town on Wednesday.
First Selectman Daniel Steward said this afternoon about 67 percent of Waterford residents are without power and that circuits are continuing to restore.
He said that crews from CL&P have been working since about 8 a.m., and that the town's public works department is working hand in hand with the utility company to clear the roads of downed trees and power lines.
According to the CL&P outage map, 6,814 customers are currently without power.
He admitted that the process seems slow but that there is more to do before restoring power than some people realize.
"It's hard to judge CL&P because we don't know how long it takes to do whatever kind of repairs … They've got to make sure lines aren't live, that the pole is still stable, all of those things before they can even touch it," he said. "There are a whole lot of steps they go through which aren't obvious, and seemingly creates a delay but there are a lot of things that go into what we think would be a simple job."
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