Published November 01. 2012 4:00AM
Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon figured since nearly 70 percent of his town was still without power Wednesday afternoon, and neighboring Norwich was nearly 100 percent restored, he would make a phone call.
Congdon called Norwich Public Utilities General Manager John Bilda to ask whether crews could be provided to help Preston out.
The short answer: "It doesn't work that way," officials from Connecticut Light & Power and NPU said.
Frank Poirot, spokesman for CL&P, said the mutual aid network is much like the system fire departments use and must be controlled through a central system.
"The town cannot directly ask for mutual aid, because it would be chaos," Poirot said.
CL&P put out calls for mutual aid nationwide starting a week ago in anticipation of the storm. Other Connecticut utilities have been busy restoring their own power systems. But as crews become available, they must be dispatched centrally by CL&P.
Bilda said NPU was down to 55 customers without power by Wednesday afternoon. Most of the outages were concentrated in the Vergason Avenue area, where the electrical system caught fire earlier in the day. Bilda said NPU could have two three-person crews available for mutual aid as soon as today.
Groton Utilities also hoped to restore the final 250 of the 6,000 customers without power by late Wednesday, Herb Cummings, Groton Utilities manager of electric, said.
"We deploy (mutual aid crews) in a central way, to the hardest-hit areas and to the regional levels," Poirot said, "in this case to the New London region, and they would (be) deployed to individual streets."
CL&P started ramping up the mutual aid center at Waterford Speedbowl Wednesday night.
- Claire Bessette