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Some Connecticut residents used chain saws and shovels Sunday to dig out from an early blast of winter weather that snapped trees, toppled power lines and left more than half of Connecticut Light & Power's customers fretting over how they would stay warm during record-breaking power outages.
But in southeastern Connecticut, which was spared the brunt of the storm, most residences still have power.
The weekend nor'easter plunged more than 800,000 customers into darkness in the north and west portions of the state, shattering the record for a single event that was set when the remnants of Hurricane Irene hit in August. It may take more than a week to restore power to everyone, Connecticut Light & Power said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy asked President Barack Obama on Sunday to declare
a federal emergency in Connecticut, a designation that would give the state access to federal assistance and reimbursement for 75 percent of certain emergency protective measures.
"Connecticut is now in the very first stages of recovering from a storm of a magnitude and at a time of year that we have never experienced before. Hundreds of thousands of households are without power or heat, travel conditions remain dangerous, and damage to our electric infrastructure continues," the governor said. "I have asked President Obama for federal assistance, and I am urging Connecticut residents to stay off the roads, let tree and DOT crews get out there, clean up and assess the damage."
CL&P president Jeff Butler said the utility is using two helicopters to help with damage assessments. He said the storm caused significant damage to transmission lines, and he and the governor said the recovery will not be quick.
"It is going to be a more difficult situation than we experienced in Irene," Malloy said. "We are expecting extensive and long-term power outages."
Thirty-two shelters were open around the state, and Malloy asked volunteer fire departments to allow people in for warmth and showers.
The storm smashed a record for October snowfall in Connecticut, dropping 12.3 inches Saturday at Bradley International Airport, said Charlie Foley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. The earlier measurable snowfall in the state was 1.7 inches on Oct. 10, 1979.
In North Stonington, First Selectman Nicholas Mullane II said as of 2:45 this afternoon that power had been restored to most of the town. According to CL&P, only 41 customers were still without power. Those outages were along Wintechog Hill and Patricia Avenue, Mullane said, and he estimated the remaining outages would be addressed by day’s end.
Connecticut Light and Power crews worked since early this morning to clear several downed trees that had knocked out power. One particularly problematic tree fell on lines that ran along the old Norwich-Westerly trolley line.
Mullane said that once that tree was removed, most of the power outages were wiped out. There had been discussion of opening Wheeler High School as a shelter, but Mullane said that would not be necessary now with most of the town back up and running.
At 10:45 this morning, Donna Mansel and her son, Colin, stopped by the Country Marketplace on Old Colchester Road in Montville. Without power in their Forsyth Road home, the two had just come from breakfast in Salem to buy some jugs of water.
Mansel said she lost power at her home at 6:15 on Saturday night. With a well normally supplying water to their property, the jugs of water were partly for flushing toilets and giving the family's two pets clean water to drink.
Her family was without power for six and a half days after Tropical Storm Irene, Mansel said.
"It wasn't so bad when it was warm out," Mansel said as she pointed to her son's Montville High School soccer sweat suit, which he had slept in the night before to stay warm. "I didn't prepare this time because I didn't think we'd get such heavy snow."
Alan Richards, the store manager at Country Marketplace, said business was steady early Sunday and many residents of Montville Manor headed to the store for supplies. Country Marketplace lost power late Saturday afternoon, Richards said, but a gas-powered generator helped the store stay up and running.
Some meat had to be thrown out, Richards said.
"The biggest joke is we just went through all of this with the hurricane," Richards said. "The comeback is: 'this is New England -- we should be used to it.' But are we ever?"
Montville Mayor Joseph Jaskiewicz said early today that about half of the Montville Manor residents were without power. Downed power lines on Forsyth Road and other nearby roads were also causing outages.
In making an early drive around the Oakdale section of town, the mayor said he thought the town was fairly lucky. He had yet to hear from Connecticut Light and Power officials on a time in which power would be restored.
"We could've been much worse when you compare us to the western part of the state," Jaskiewicz said.
Today's temperatures in the New London area should get as high as 45, according to the National Weather Service. It will still be windy, with a north wind blowing between 17 and 20 mph, with gusts up to 30. No precipitation is in the forecast.
By mid-week the temperature is expected to be in the mid-50s.
With Associated Press reports.
While more than half of Connecticut Light & Power's customers are without power across the state following an overnight storm, most of southeastern Connecticut still has power.
About one-third of Colchester, where there are 2,228 customers without power, is in the worst shape.
Things are getting better in Montville where the almost 1,000 outages earlier this morning have been reduced to 615. North Stonington, which had 807 customers without power, not has just 41.
Ledyard, which had almost 400 outages a few hours ago, is now down to 203. Scattered outages remain in Lyme, Old Lyme, East Lyme, New London, Preston, Waterford and Stonington.
Mike Hughes, communications and community outreach manager for Norwich Public Utilities, said Sunday morning that there were no power outages in Norwich. Sporadic outages left 450 customers without power during the storm, but Hughes said the company had restored power to all of its customers by 3 a.m. Sunday.
- Joe Wojtas