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Hartford - As hundreds of thousands of residents enter their fourth day without electric service since Tropical Storm Irene, patience is running low and tempers are rising.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy felt the gathering heat firsthand Wednesday during an afternoon visit to Ledyard, where an estimated 80 percent of homes and businesses were still lacking power.
About two dozen residents stood waiting for the governor with arms crossed when his chauffeured vehicle arrived at Town Hall. Nearly everyone in the crowd had been without electricity since Sunday. And they were getting irritated.
"He waved and nobody waved back," recalled resident Bryan DeLaBruere, 30, a member of the group. "There were some snickers."
The residents encircled Malloy as he walked over, and they grilled the governor about when power would be restored and why it was taking Connecticut Light & Power so long.
"I'm using my pool water to flush my toilet," said Tina Carrington of Gales Ferry, whose home had neither electricity nor running water. "There's only so many board games I'm going to play."
Malloy listened to the complaints and tried to answer the questions. He told the group he was urging CL&P to work fast in restoring power and said he sought federal assistance this week to get more utility repair crews to Connecticut.
"We are putting pressure on them - I can assure you," Malloy said, his shirt collar open and his arms akimbo. "I understand, I really do, that's why I'm here."
While the governor was on the receiving end of the residents' frustrations, the primary target of their ire was CL&P. U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and state Rep. Tom Reynolds, D-Ledyard, were also on hand to meet with the irritated constituents.
Mayor Fred Allyn Jr., said later that it was a good thing CL&P officials didn't accompany Malloy to Ledyard.
"I think they would have had their life in their hands if they were out there," Allyn said. "I think they were wise to not have somebody here."
Later in the day during a news conference, Malloy recalled his Ledyard visit as an example of the frustrations that have built up since the power went out.
Malloy said he was told by one person in the crowd that there had been no utility trucks in town or any road clearing done. But then he said he was told by someone else that some service trucks did arrive. And then he was told by a Ledyard official at a closed-door meeting that all of the town's streets were finally cleared.
"So a lot of this is just the frustration of people not knowing when their energy is going to be returned," the governor said. "The weather is beautiful, it's bright and sunny, and people are having a hard time understanding the implications of this terrible storm that played out Saturday and all day Sunday, in juxtaposition with this wonderful weather, and they're out of energy in trying to understand it.
"So there's just a lot of frustration, and in that frustration people grab pieces of information and sometimes that information simply isn't true."
Allyn, the Ledyard mayor, said he thinks part of the griping could be a generational phenomenon. People are just generally softer these days, he said.
"We have a whole country of people whose expectations are unachievable, and if anything is slightly out of the ordinary, it's bad," Allyn said. "We're a country that does not know how to deal with any adversity, and that's a shame."
To be sure, a number of the Ledyard residents expressed their gratitude to the governor for visiting.
"Thank you for listening to all of us because we are very strung out," Carrington said to Malloy. "There's a lot of us here in Ledyard and Gales Ferry who have really had enough."
Reynolds could count himself among the 290,000 CL&P customers who were still without power Wednesday afternoon. Because his home uses a private well and septic system, he was also without water. His family filled up their bathtubs before the storm and have been using that water to flush the toilets.
"We're getting low. One's about a third full and one's about half-full - I'm sure we'll run out," Reynolds said.
CL&P President Jeff Butler said at a news conference that the utility has set up three temporary operations centers in the eastern part of state, including one at the Waterford Speedbowl, so that utilities crews can better tackle the region's lingering power outage problems. The other two sites are in Westbrook and Brooklyn.
Butler said CL&P expects to have about 200,000 customers without power by this morning and is still aiming to have all customers restored by Wednesday.
"We recognize we have a lot of work to do," Butler said.
CL&P also hopes to have restoration projections available today for every town that still has power outages.
Norwich Public Utilities and Groton Utilities said they have restored all of their customers.