As night falls, so do trees, power lines

Area residents hunker down as a blizzard bears down on the region Friday Feb. 8, 2013. A man walked the deserted streets of downtown New London.
Area residents hunker down as a blizzard bears down on the region Friday Feb. 8, 2013. A man walked the deserted streets of downtown New London. Tim Cook/The Day Buy Photo

Predicted wind gusts of 60 miles per hour and heavy, wet snow Friday brought forecast power outages to fruition in an area of the state where it has become all too familiar.

By evening, the massive blizzard had caused more than 26,700 Connecticut Light & Power outages statewide, with more than 22,000 of those in southeastern Connecticut.

Hardest hit were Stonington and Groton, which had 2,811 and 2,294 outages, respectively, around 8 p.m. according to a CL&P online outage map. Earlier Friday, Governor Dannel P. Malloy said he was most concerned with those two towns because unlike other parts of the coastline, they are not protected by Long Island.

More than 1,200 outages were reported in the towns of North Stonington, Waterford and Old Lyme.

CL&P Spokesman Mitch Gross said some of the utility's 400 linesmen were pre-staged in towns across the state, but many repairs would not be made until the storm has passed.

"We're just beginning to see what this storm is doing," he said around 7:30 p.m. Friday. "By midnight we will have a very clear picture of what we will have overnight and even more so tomorrow when we all start to dig out from it."

Gross said the Waterford Speedbowl and Hammonasset State Park in Madison are the most likely locations for large staging areas of crews. About 200 more linemen are expected in state today, he said, when the crews will have a better chance to get to work.

There is no company policy on high winds, Gross said, but once gusts reach 40 miles per hour, individual linemen decide whether its safe or not. All crews were expected to work throughout the night, "as long as its safe," he said.

As for those in southeastern Connecticut, who are once again feeling the brunt of outages, Gross urged "patience." He did say there is the possibility of "prolonged power outages."

"We clearly understand what it is like to be without," Gross said. "We have the resources and equipment and we're bringing in additional crews. The storm may have to pass until we really get going, but we'll stay on the job."

Norwich Public Utilities reported about 2,000 customers without power as of 10 p.m.

Groton Utilities crews were prepared to respond to problems but cannot go up in the bucket truck if wind gusts are above 35 mph. GU customers may report utility concerns to 860-446-4000.

s.goldstein@theday.com

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