Without power, residents forge ahead
At the close of a second day of recovery from bombardment by historic winds, thousands remained in the dark, and frustration grew in towns where power outages were still widespread.
Connecticut Light & Power is reporting at 9:15 a.m. that 250,010 customers throughout the state are still in the dark as a result of the hurricane-force winds of Sandy. A CL&P spokesman said at the storm's peak more than 500,000 customers were without power.
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 are still in the dark. 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.
CL&P said in a news release that it has more than 5,000 crews working on the damage and power restoration. Spokesman Frank Poirot said systemwide restoration times will be available today.
Crews are expected to stage at the Waterford Speedbowl, as they did after Tropical Storm Irene.
But Poirot said comparisons between CL&P's response to Sandy and Irene are premature.
"There is a deliberate and safe process to follow in order to restore power," Poirot said. "No two storms are alike, so you can't compare them. We improve with every restoration."
Town and CL&P crews in Stonington worked Wednesday to clear many roads blocked by downed trees and wires. Two locations on River Road in Pawcatuck and one each on Palmer Street and upper Al Harvey Road were still blocked Wednesday night. Fifteen locations had branches on power lines.
Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek said he anticipates the town will have a better picture today of when power will be restored. The town received more crews from CL&P Wednesday after Haberek criticized the utility.
"I think their overall planning after the past storm (Tropical Storm Irene) didn't calculate the crews they would need," Haberek said. "We're going into our third day and we're far behind the last storm. CL&P needs to understand that it takes a crew one to three hours to fix a problem, so with two or three crews, you don't get anywhere."
East Lyme was approved for "push and shove" assistance from the state Wednesday to clear debris from roadways. Downed trees and wires affected 26 roads in town as of Wednesday night. Some areas have been so devastated that they will need new power infrastructure, First Selectman Paul Formica said.
Eleven crews were working to restore power to the town's main circuits Wednesday. Formica said he would reserve judgment on CL&P's response to the storm.
"We've been promised assistance," he said. "Let's see how and when they perform."
Sixty-six percent of customers in Ledyard were without power Wednesday night, according to the CL&P website. Outages in town jumped about 30 percent, to 89 percent, late Wednesday afternoon.
Mayoral Assistant Mark Bancroft said just one CL&P crew was in town Wednesday and town officials did not know why the outages spiked. A downed tree limb may have caused some of the additional outages.
A CL&P representative for the town said restoration crews would be arriving late Wednesday and more crews would arrive Thursday to clear trees and downed power lines.
Power was restored just after 3 p.m. Wednesday to the Town Hall in Salem and on several roads near the town's offices on Route 85. The lights had yet to come back on at Salem Four Corners, the town's main business hub.
First Selectman Kevin Lyden said about 90 percent of the town's power restoration hinges on Colchester and East Lyme, which have substations that transmit most of the town's electricity. Lyden said the experience with last year's tropical storm - in which the town was one of the last in the region to regain power - helped people brace for Sandy.
"People were better prepared, probably, because Irene was so fresh in their minds," Lyden said.
Forty-six percent of CL&P customers in Montville were without power Wednesday night. Parts of Route 32 were in the dark throughout the day, and the town worked to restore power to its wastewater treatment plant, which ran on generator power much of the day.
Mayor Ronald K. McDaniel Jr. said there have been a few issues with CL&P and its contractors. Crews waited about four hours Tuesday for orders and wasted valuable time before they started clearing roads at 1 p.m., McDaniel said.
"They responded far better today so far," McDaniel said Wednesday morning. "They're doing a bang-up job today of getting roads open, and we do have restoration crews in town."
In Waterford, there are less than 4,900 people in town without power, and Quaker Hill School came back online this afternoon. Power has yet to be restored to the Great Neck School and that section of town.
Nine crew members and three bucket trucks from Norwich Public Utilities will be sent to Waterford this afternoon. They will be dispatched after they go to the CL&P staging area at the Waterford Speed Bowl.
Contacted this afternoon, First Selectman Daniel Steward said that he was unaware of the NPU crews.
“If that is true I will greatly appreciate it; right now that’s our shortfall because we have plenty of other people to do other work but we can't splice wire,” he said. “The utility company has to identify if the wire is live or dead but most of the tree cleaning has been done with their assistance which is what takes so long. Right now we're at a point where we need to get service put back on and a lot of that has to do with the utility people.”
NPU customers will not have to pay for their employees working in other towns, NPU General Manager John Bilda said in a press release. The cost will be “100 percent paid by CL&P,” he said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who toured Stonington and New London early Wednesday, announced that towns, individuals and nonprofits that experienced damage because of Sandy must register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to seek financial aid. Malloy also signed an executive order extending property tax deadlines for taxpayers who pay their bills on a quarterly basis.
Day staff writers Kimberly Drelich, Julianne Hanckel, Anna Isaacs, Izaskun E. Larrañeta and Joe Wojtas contributed to this report.
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