On Crystal Avenue, the waiting drones on
New London - Only one thing has changed for Clytie Wells since the lights went out Sunday at the Thames River Apartments on Crystal Avenue.
Instead of going to bed after the 11 o'clock news, she now turns in when she can't see anymore.
"While it's still light, I take a bath, put on my gown, and when it gets dark, I go to bed,'' said the 85-year-old Wells, who has lived in the nine-story apartment complex for 44 years. "When I lived in New York we had blackouts, so I guess I got used to the dark.''
Wells, who was in the courtyard of the high-rise apartment complex Wednesday enjoying a cup of coffee and a sandwich a friend had bought for her, is one of 125 tenants who have been without power since the winds of Hurricane Irene knocked out a transformer on Crystal Avenue. Other homes and business in and around Crystal Avenue, the city's transfer station and the busy intersection where Route 32 and the Interstate 95 ramp meet in New London, are also without power.
It's hard enough living in close quarters in subsidized housing at Thames River, where one tenant said people are always "up in your business.'' But residents seem to be coping with the added stress of having no electricity.
Emergency generators are powering the elevators and lights in the hallways, and the buildings still have running hot and cold water.
Some residents are sharing food, barbecuing, playing cards and running extension cords from the hallway to provide breathing treatments for asthmatic kids.
One mother took her four children on Tuesday for a walk around New London, visited friends, ate dinner at Subway and returned home in time to read a short story before an 8 p.m. bedtime.
"It's frustrating,'' she said, asking that her name not be used. "But what are you going to do?"
Theresa Guthridge, who lives with her five kids, a dog, a cat and now a tank full of dead fish in a third-floor apartment, said she was glad school started Wednesday. Her family has been spending time playing games, she said.
"What can you do?'' she said.
"I'm sitting in my house playing cards,'' said Theresa Mahmood, who lives on the fifth floor. "I'd be watching TV. I'm addicted to my TV. If I don't have it soon, I'll go nuts.''
She bought a footlong Subway sandwich Wednesday, half for lunch and half for dinner, she said.
But when power will be restored is anyone's guess.
"I am extremely disappointed,'' said Reid Burdick, the city's director of emergency management, who has been talking with Connecticut Light & Power officials for days.
He was told by CL&P Wednesday that a damage assessment team would be out to look at the transformer "soon" to determine how much manpower is needed to fix it. He said there were 149 crews working out of the New London regional office Wednesday, but none were assigned to the city.
"That's the long and the short of it,'' he said, adding he understands many people are without power, but to still have no power to an apartment complex with 125 units, as well as the city's transfer station, other homes and businesses, and a busy intersection, is unacceptable.
"I'm not happy they're not getting any respect,'' he said. "It's disappointing."
Jamie Edwards, president of the Thames River tenants association, said some residents have been meeting in the laundry room, where there is electricity, to pool their resources and organize trips to the grocery store. But she also feels as if the city has abandoned them.
A group of residents have been barbecuing on grills in the courtyard and checking on residents, but for families whose budgets are stretched under normal circumstances, there is little extra money for batteries, flashlights, bottled water and charcoal for the grill. Eating out is also cost-prohibitive.
"My mother lives across town, and she has electricity,'' Edwards said. "But there are people here who have no one and nowhere to go. ... We're trying to pull together."
Niko Robertson said she is trying to keep things as normal as possible for some of the children, including bringing a television set and DVR to the laundry room at night for the kids to watch.
She said the New London Housing Authority, which manages the complex, is not doing enough to take care of them.
"I feel the housing authority should be doing something,'' she said. "The way I was raised, I couldn't sleep at night knowing people were alone and in the dark."
Housing Director Sue Shontell said she is doing all she can to help and is just as frustrated that the power is still out. She said she has repeatedly called CL&P to impress upon them that restoring power to the complex and the area is a matter of public safety.
On Wednesday, housing authority workers were going door-to-door to help people clean out their refrigerators and freezers. The food pantry on the first floor of the complex was open and was being stocked with bread and other foods. Electric frying pans and crockpots are also promised so residents can cook in the community rooms, where there is power.
Burdick, the emergency management director, said he has ordered 3,000 ready-made meals, called MREs, and pallets of bottled water. The supplies will be distributed at the food center, he said.
Cassandra Hill, who was one of the residents feeling alone in the disaster, said she appreciates what the housing authority is doing.
"I know it's out of everyone's control, but it's nice that people show they care,'' she said.
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