Region at a halt as storm socks region

Tim Cook/The Day From left, friends Judson Marinho, Heather Cote, Bill Sharpe and Chris Foy work on a large snowman Friday night in Williams Park in New London as a blizzard bears down on the region.

Southeast Connecticut is hardest hit in the state with power outages, according to CL&P. North Stonington, Waterford, East Lyme, Old Lyme and Lyme all top the outage percentages with more than 60 percent of customers in the dark, according to the company's 9:46 a.m. update.

Thirty-four Connecticut Light & Power line crews are positioned in New London, as well as 16 tree crews, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio announced this morning.

The utilities plan to get to work this afternoon restoring power to 1,826 customers without once the snow and wind stops.

Anyone additional outages should be reported directly to CL&P at 800-286-2000.

All Department of Public Works employees have been called in to help with snow removal and the mayor said additional private contractors have been hired to remove snow.

he major utility companies predicted a 30 percent power outage for Connecticut. On Friday Connecticut Light & Power expected to bring 400 additional linemen and about 100 tree crew personnel from outside the state to help Connecticut recover from the storm, Malloy said.

The biggest power outages in local towns according to the CL&P website as of 7:52 a.m. were:

East Lyme: 7,695 - 80 percent

Groton: 2,176 customers - 26 percent

Ledyard: 1,420 - 21 percent

Lyme: 1,033 - 78 percent

North Stonington: 1,913 - 75 percent

Old Lyme: 3,971 - 73 percent

Stonington: 4,169 - 52 percent

Waterford: 6,579 - 68 percent

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ordered all roads in the state closed until further notice. The advisory said all vehicles except those used for emergency response were part of the travel ban.

Plows and police vehicles took over the roadways today before dawn and people across southeastern Connecticut took cover as a massive, possibly historic, blizzard blew into town, leaving power outages and dumping a snowfall forecast at 2 feet by the time the storm ends midday today.

The blizzard, christened "Nemo" by The Weather Channel, already had paralyzed the New York to Boston corridor and most of New England before it started snowing mid-morning Friday. In anticipation of the snow totals and wind gusts, planes were grounded, trains ran on limited schedules and cars were all but prohibited from most roadways Friday.

Malloy declared a state of emergency Friday and banned travel on highways, including Interstates 95 and 395, until further notice. Municipalities announced most local roadways were closed as well, except to emergency personnel.

Malloy also said the storm was not predicted to be as bad of a storm as Superstorm Sandy, but a tidal surge of about 3 to 5 feet was expected.

The National Weather Service's blizzard warning remains in effect until 1 p.m. today. Some bands of snow were expected to drop 2 to 4 inches per hour, the weather service predicted.

'Sandy with snow'

"This is basically going to be Hurricane Sandy with snow," Stonington First Selectman Ed Habarek said as the storm started to bear down Friday.

Municipalities worked hard to keep roads cleared, including in New London, where Mark Mitsko drove his International snowplow up and down the streets in the north end of the city, making sure his route was pre-salted and that he would be able to pass through later Friday when the snow was expected to pick up.

During a pass from one end of the city to the other, Mitsko checked the temperature: air, 32 degrees, road surface, 27 degrees. He was one of a fleet of 20 public works trucks and 45 workers who will be on duty, probably until some time Sunday he said, making sure the roads are passable.

In Groton City, Mayor Marian Galbraith had hunkered down Friday for the long haul.

Galbraith had partially activated the emergency operations center, setting up maps, tuning a television to the Weather Channel and organizing radios to contact public works and Groton Utilities crews. She was even blowing up an inflatable bed while waiting for the worst of the storm to hit the area.

She urged all residents to stay put if at all possible.

In Preston, more than 200 CL&P customers were without power this morning and several roads are blocked with downed trees, First Selectman Robert Congdon said.

"Now we start digging out," Congdon said.

Congdon said a few vehicles are stuck on roads. On Old Jewett City Road, a car struck a tree, but he driver apparently locked the car and left. "We're assuming they're all right," he said.

In Norwich, about 30 officials attended a national Internet Web conference with National Weather Service Meteorologist Gary Conte for an update on the expected impact of the storm on southeastern Connecticut.

Northern New London County could get as much as 24 to 30 inches of snow, while coastal areas could see significant storm surges and wind erosion. Coastal flooding, especially in western Long Island Sound, could reach 3 to 5 feet above ground at high tide, Conte said.

Following the weather update, Norwich officials outlined the city's plans for handling the brunt of the storm.

A 911 dispatcher remained at the city's Emergency Operations Center, at the Norwich Public Utilities headquarters on South Golden Street, throughout the storm to ensure that snow plows are directed to streets with active emergencies, Emergency Management Director Gene Arters said.

Police Chief Louis Fusaro said road closures were announced as needed, and the city issued a citywide travel ban during the height of the storm.

Arters said local American Red Cross officials were advising residents without power to "shelter in place" during the storm. The city plans to open the emergency shelter at Kelly Middle School after the storm if needed. If major power outages occur in Norwich, Arters said, city staff could open the shelter earlier if necessary.

Dolores Thayer, facilities operations supervisor for Norwich Public Schools, said custodians will be stationed at all city schools throughout the storm to keep up with snow removal in anticipation of opening school on Monday.

In Storrs, University of Connecticut staff have been working around-the-clock to keep the Storrs campus roads passable for police and fire vehicles, but like other roads statewide, they are closed to non-emergency traffic, said Stephanie Reitz, UConn spokeswoman.

No injuries have been reported, she said.

The University has a large supply of food and anticipates no difficulties at all in meeting the needs throughout the storm's duration and aftermath, she said.

Campus officials are urging students to remain inside but, if they go out, to stay off the roads so plows can move safely.

No damage has been experienced, but the Avery Point campus in Groton has recorded heavy winds and one building temporarily lost power overnight, Reitz said.



A plow driver heads back to his truck after shoveling out a fire hydrant on Golden Street in New London as a blizzard bears down on the region Friday night, Feb. 8, 2013.
Tim Cook/The Day A plow driver heads back to his truck after shoveling out a fire hydrant on Golden Street in New London as a blizzard bears down on the region Friday night, Feb. 8, 2013.
Connecticut College students take full advantage of the college being closed to enjoy a snow football game as a serious winter storm hits the seacoast area hard Friday, Feb. 8, 2013.
Tim Cook/The Day Connecticut College students take full advantage of the college being closed to enjoy a snow football game as a serious winter storm hits the seacoast area hard Friday, Feb. 8, 2013.
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