Thousands in region still without power

Nick Bellone, 15, of Westerly clears sand in front of Maria's Seaside Cafe, owned by his grandparents, on Atlantic Avenue in the Misquamicut Beach area of Westerly Saturday. Working with him in the background are his cousin Max Kreckel, 14, and Jordan Husereau, an employee of the restaurant. Nick's father Peter Bellone, not shown, was working a backhoe, clearing sand left by Hurricane Sandy that filled the area in front and behind the wall and into sections of the damaged restaurant.
Nick Bellone, 15, of Westerly clears sand in front of Maria's Seaside Cafe, owned by his grandparents, on Atlantic Avenue in the Misquamicut Beach area of Westerly Saturday. Working with him in the background are his cousin Max Kreckel, 14, and Jordan Husereau, an employee of the restaurant. Nick's father Peter Bellone, not shown, was working a backhoe, clearing sand left by Hurricane Sandy that filled the area in front and behind the wall and into sections of the damaged restaurant. Dana Jensen/The Day Buy Photo

While power continued to be restored in communities throughout the state Friday, there were still thousands of people who still didn't know when their power would be turned back on.

Electricity has been largely restored in the central and western portions of the state following Superstorm Sandy, and Connecticut Light & Power officials said Friday the company was sending more out-of-state line workers to southeastern and southwestern Connecticut.

CL&P's goal is to restore power to at least 98 percent of its customers by Monday or Tuesday.

As of 9:30 p.m. Friday, 120,591 CL&P customers still had no power. Outages statewide peaked at more than 500,000 earlier in the week.

Almost 60 percent of North Stonington residents, half of Old Lyme and about 40 percent of Ledyard residents remained without power Friday night. In East Lyme, only 14 percent of CL&P customers were still in the dark; two days earlier the entire town was without power.

Outages in Stonington, Groton and Waterford ranged from 26 percent and 28 percent Friday night. Montville and New London outages were at 12 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., visited the town halls in Ledyard and Montville Friday to check on recovery efforts. The towns' mayors told Blumenthal they've been frustrated by a lack of information - or misinformation - from CL&P about when power would be restored.

In Ledyard, some are feeling "forgotten," Mayor John Rodolico said, adding that town officials need information so residents can plan - information that CL&P "doesn't seem prepared to give us."

"We're asking questions, and we can't necessarily get answers," Rodolico told Blumenthal. "Tell us, especially with some of our large circuits … what the turnaround time will be to get the work done."

Montville Mayor Ronald McDaniel told the senator that CL&P crews arrived in town later than he had expected. The CL&P liaisons to the town have been updating him as soon as they get information, he said, but that information "has been spotty getting down to them."

"It's a real concern that people don't have any timetable for power to be restored," Blumenthal said. "That's the common denominator between this storm and the last, the lack of a timetable," he added, referring to Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek has been critical of CL&P's response to restore power and clear downed lines over the past few days, but he was much happier Friday when CL&P assigned 19 crews to restore power in town.

"I'm very pleased with the amount of crews we have today for restoration," Haberek said. "CL&P is looking at us as being a critical area."

Stonington outages were down to 26 percent of the town by 9:30 p.m. Friday night, compared to 81 percent on Thursday. At one point Friday morning, more than 20 utility trucks were parked behind the Human Services Department, which is being used as a staging area. Crews were then sent out to begin restoration work.

"We've made some significant progress in town today," Rich Rogozinski, the town's CL&P liaison, said of the repairs to poles and lines.

That did not stop frustrated residents from making a steady stream of calls to the emergency operations center earlier Friday, asking when their power would be restored.

"We're telling them that we're doing the best we can," said Emergency Operations Director George Brennan, who added that some of the callers had been ornery.

Power has been restored to downtown Pawcatuck and much of Mystic, but it could still be a while before power is restored to Stonington borough and Masons Island since both are toward the end of power circuits. Some borough restaurants are running on generators.

Groton Emergency Management Director Joseph Sastre said residents, including those in downtown Mystic, should plan to be without power for the weekend, though things could change.

Sastre said he expects the Federal Emergency Management Agency will set up a Disaster Recovery Center at the Groton Senior Center in the days to come.

Company spokesman Bill Quinlan, during a press conference Friday morning at Northeast Utilities' corporate headquarters in Berlin, said he expected 1,500 external line workers would be helping restore power statewide Friday, up from 1,080 Thursday. By today there should be 2,100 workers, he said, a figure that doesn't include the 400 CL&P personnel directly engaged in power restoration.

CL&P officials could not say exactly how many of the extra line crews would be deployed in eastern Connecticut. But spokesman Frank Poirot said 109 crews were stationed at the Waterford Speedbowl Friday, and that number was expected to increase.

Blumenthal said he has been hearing concerns throughout the state about CL&P and United Illuminating. "There was initially a lack of organization and communication," he said. "There were a lot of crews and workers here on paper, but nobody knew where they were."

Blumenthal, who also visited Preston and Norwich on Friday, said he plans to call for a hearing on the utility companies' response to the hurricane in the Northeast because it has clearly been "far from perfect." He said he has been impressed with the public utilities, whose performance could be used as a "blueprint."

"The needle has moved in the right direction, but it still has a way to go, judging by what I've heard from local officials and residents," Blumenthal said.

Rodolico and Haberek both said they are considering whether their towns should switch to Groton Utilities, but the infrastructure would be costly. Customers of Groton Utilities quickly had their power restored after the storm.

Quinlan, the CL&P spokesman, said of the 1 percent to 2 percent of homes that will still be without power early next week, it is possible some will be restored Wednesday or Thursday. Others with homes that are inaccessible or severely damaged may have to wait for months.

CL&P has cleared many blocked roads, Quinlan said, estimating that 500 statewide are still closed out of more than 5,000 that were shut down by fallen trees and other debris after the storm.

Thursday was the first day since the storm that no town in the state was between 90 percent and 100 percent in the dark, Quinlan said.

j.mcdermott@theday.com

Day Staff Writers Lee Howard and Joe Wojtas contributed to this report.

Members of a salvage crew work to secure the Miss Dee, a 35-foot sailboat docked in North Stonington, before hauling it off the rocks along the Groton side of the Mystic River during a salvage operation on Friday. The Miss Dee was blown into the rocks when Sandy hit the region this week.
Members of a salvage crew work to secure the Miss Dee, a 35-foot sailboat docked in North Stonington, before hauling it off the rocks along the Groton side of the Mystic River during a salvage operation on Friday. The Miss Dee was blown into the rocks when Sandy hit the region this week. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo
Matt Stark unloads storm debris from the back of his pickup into an ever-growing pile of driftwood, brush and rubbish along West End Drive in the Hawks Nest Beach section of Old Lyme on Friday. Stark's parents own a cottage on West End Drive, and he was helping to clean up storm debris on their property. Among the items he found was a buoy registered in New York state.
Matt Stark unloads storm debris from the back of his pickup into an ever-growing pile of driftwood, brush and rubbish along West End Drive in the Hawks Nest Beach section of Old Lyme on Friday. Stark's parents own a cottage on West End Drive, and he was helping to clean up storm debris on their property. Among the items he found was a buoy registered in New York state. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo
Residents begin the slow process of cleaning up and rebuilding Friday along West End Drive in the Hawks Nest Beach section of Old Lyme.
Residents begin the slow process of cleaning up and rebuilding Friday along West End Drive in the Hawks Nest Beach section of Old Lyme. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo
Hide Comments

READER COMMENTS

Loading comments...
Hide Comments