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Relief, excitement when utility truck spotted in neighborhood; many still waiting

Izaskun E. Larraņeta, Julianne Hanckel, Jeffrey A. Johnson and Anna Isaacs

Publication: theday.com

Published November 01. 2012 6:00AM   Updated November 01. 2012 6:52PM
Sean D. Elliot/The Day
Bob Roseberry, right, along with his wife, Dolores, left, and her sister Eleanor Fortunato meet with independent insurance adjuster Lexanne Kroll, seated on ground, of Depino Adjusters, LLC, in the shadow of their Atlantic Ave. house damaged by hurricane Sandy in the Crescent Beach section of East Lyme Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012.

Tink Miner and Cliff Frink sat outside on the porch of 12 Morgan St. in Pawcatuck this afternoon, watching a utility crew from Illinois work to restore power to their neighborhood.

Frink's mother, Priscilla Frink, owns the home, which sustained more than just a typical power outage. When a large tree fell on the wires just a few houses down, a high voltage line snapped and hit the secondary power line, causing a backup of electricity into seven homes on Morgan Street.

"There were burn marks on my wall outlets, my electric meters had to be removed from the side of my home and an electrician has to test every outlet in my house before the power can even be turned on," Priscilla Frink said.

Once the electrician gives the "all clear" the town's building inspector must come to the house to make sure everything is safe before he contacts CL&P to restore the power.

"I'm very happy to see the truck outside, I've been out of power since Monday," she said. "It's supposed to be pretty chilly these next few days so the heat will be good."

Two doors down, Frink's neighbor Anthony Miceli said that he had been watching that same crew work since Tuesday afternoon.

"They're awesome, they were very, very good," he said. "They've been working 16 hours a day and you can't ask for more than that from anyone. I have no complaints about any of the utility company responses, they're doing the best they can."

Miceli lost power Monday evening and also had a large tree fall on the front of his home. He couldn't open the front door but spoke through the screen while his two dogs poked their noses out of the screen door, which he had to cut so he could let them out.

Earlier in the day, local and state leaders expressed frustration during a press conference at the response from Connecticut Light & Power in restoring power to the Stonington area.

"We are going on day four without power," said Sen. Andrew Maynard, D- Stonington. "What is taking so long if we have the necessary resources in place? We are just trying to get straight answers."

Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek said he was "dissatisfied" with CL&P.

"Yesterday, we had five crews total in town and today we're back to one crew," said Haberek. "I can't understand why we are getting so little help. Our situation is critical."

According to CL&P website, 81 percent of the town is without power.

A spokesman for Connecticut Light & Power said this morning that he expects a "substantial restoration" by Monday or Tuesday across the state.

Mitch Gross said there is still a lot of work to do. According to CL&P's website 250,010 customers throughout the state are still in the dark as a result of the hurricane-force winds of Sandy. At the storm's peak more than 500,000 customers were without power.

Haberek said the crew in town consists of one tree and utility team.

"It takes up to three to five hours to clear a road," said Haberek. "We have 36 roads and one crew, it's going to be a week before we get power."

Rep. Diane Urban, R-North Stonington, said she feels there is a lack of coordination and wants to figure out what it is going to take to cut the bureaucracy.

Stonington CL&P liaison Rich Rogozinski said there are 54 line crews at the Waterford Speedbowl. He said seven work nights and the rest days. He said an additional 16 line crews are heading this way.

He deferred any comment on complaints about CL&P to the utility's headquarters.

Frank Poirot, CL&P spokesman, said he understands the frustration that towns like Stonington are feeling.

He said that Stonington doesn't have an isolated grid that serves the town. He said line crews often have to go outside of the town to make fixes, explaining why people may not see crews.

"The extent of damage in your area is not just fix fixing a pole," said Poirot. "In may case we are starting from scratch, we have to build an entire street distribution system. It's a time-consuming fix."

Ledyard Mayoral Assistant Mark Bancroft said CL&P has brought in 15 crews to work on power outages in town today.

The number of residents without power in town is down to 74 percent according to the CL&P outage map as of 3:15 p.m. That's down from a peak of 90 percent yesterday. Bancroft said crews are working on several electrical systems in town today, and the number of affected CL&P customers should go down again by nightfall.

Mayor John Rodolico, who had left on Oct. 21 for vacation in China, is back in town today. Rodolico was supposed to arrive home Sunday, but flight cancellations due to Sandy kept him there for an additional five days, during which time Town Council Chair Linda Davis served as acting mayor. He will be meeting with emergency management personnel this afternoon.

Montville Mayor Ronald K. McDaniel Jr. said as of noon there were six CL&P crews in town.

Five were dedicated to restoring power to two circuits that feed electricity to the east and west of Old Colchester Road. The other crew is roving for critical emergencies in town.

McDaniel said that restoration crews in East Lyme are working on a circuit that feeds power to Chesterfield and the northwest corner of town. As of 2:30 this afternoon, 61 percent of CL&P customers in the town were without power, according to the utility's online outage map. That left 4,927 customers affected.

The mayor said the town has yet to receive a definitive estimate on when power will be restored to those who are still without it.

East Lyme Emergency Management Director Dick Morris said the town is disappointed and said it is unfair for CL&P to make a prediction on when people will get power.

"They need to take a hard look at their predictions and what they're trying to do," he said.

Morris said the town has received an "unprecedented number" of phone calls from concerned residents about power outages.

Local towns were among those hit the hardest. East Lyme led the region with 8,446 outages, and CL&P's website shows between 70 percent and 80 percent of Stonington, North Stonington, Old Lyme and Salem in the dark this morning. More than 60 percent of Preston and Ledyard were without electricity, and outages in Groton, New London and Montville all hovered around 30 percent. Waterford came in at 51 percent dark.

A staging area at the Waterford Speedbowl was buzzing with activity this morning as CL&P workers fueled up on a catered breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs, biscuits and gravy, pancakes, oatmeal bacon and an unlimited amount of hot coffee.

The Waterford staging area was set up almost overnight when the number of crews outgrew the Myrock Avenue staging area. Local hotels and motels are filled with line and tree crews who came to the storm-ravaged area from as far away as British Columbia and Washington state.

Among the dozens of utility trucks parked in the lot at the Speedbowl were also palettes of transformers and spools of wire sat neatly in rows.

Meanwhile, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced this morning President Obama's approval of 100 percent cost share for 10 days for power restoration and public transportation assistance in the four shoreline communities where a major disaster declaration was already made.

"As we continue with the recovery process from Hurricane Sandy, I am very appreciative of President Obama's commitment to the State of Connecticut and its residents." Malloy said. "We continue to work to get the state back to normal following this devastating storm."

In Rhode Island, power has been restored to about 80 percent of the homes that went dark in Westerly, Town Manager Steven Hartford said today. Owners of about 600 homes the Misquamicut section have been able to return to their homes, but Atlantic Avenue is closed, along with and access to about 200 homes there, Hartford said. He expected a decision would be made this afternoon about when the rest of Misquamicut would reopen.

The Rhode Island Department of Emergency Management is planning to conduct air quality tests in Misquamicut to ensure the area is safe for residents, he added.

"We have had a few people concerned," he said.

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