As others see progress, thousands remain without power in Ledyard

Residents gather around the wreckage of a large tree that fell on Asylum Street in Norwich, Monday, October 30, 2017. Four cars were crushed and a utility pole snapped when the tree came down around 12:47 a.m. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Residents gather around the wreckage of a large tree that fell on Asylum Street in Norwich, Monday, October 30, 2017. Four cars were crushed and a utility pole snapped when the tree came down around 12:47 a.m. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Ledyard — As the hours dragged on Monday, Mayor Fred Allyn III grew frustrated.

He knew the storm that loudly blew through overnight would be strong enough to knock down trees — especially waterlogged ones.

But he didn’t anticipate waking up to a town where 90 percent of customers were without power. And he definitely didn’t think the outages would remain almost the same as the end of the workday approached.

The state of affairs forced Allyn to postpone the town's trick-or-treating from Tuesday to Friday and forced the school district to close for the second day in a row.

“Eversource is telling us it could be a couple days” for full power restoration, Allyn said Monday afternoon. “Which is amazing given that it was a rainstorm with wind.”

Allyn isn’t minimizing the storm — he wondered at times if the windows in his home near the Mystic line would simply pop from the pressure of the wind.

But he’s worried about what would happen if the region saw hurricane-force winds, especially given that Eversource spent the better part of a year trimming and removing trees in town so something like this wouldn’t happen.

At 8:02 p.m. Monday, Allyn was a little happier with Eversource, posting this on his "Mayor Fred" Facebook page.

"The Eversource folks must watch the news. Channels 3, 10 and Fox 61 covered my frustration with Eversource and the giant has awakened! We have crews in Town now, AND I have an Eversource staffer working across from me in my office tomorrow AM! Maybe Halloween won’t be canceled and I can relieve myself of the Grinch title?" he wrote.   

According to Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross, Eversource and its contractors by Monday afternoon had restored power to 130,000 customers. Still, more than 100,000 remained powerless.

A glitch in the company’s outage reporting system complicated efforts for a large part of the day. Gross said that problem has been resolved.

According to Gross, more than 200 additional utility crews from Florida, Ohio, Alabama, Tennessee and New York are either in the field or on their way to help with restoration.

"Unfortunately, we're sharing with some of our customers that this will be a multi-day event for some of them, and we encourage them to prepare accordingly," he said. "We continue to work as quickly and as safely as we can."

Impact felt across the region

The storm that struck Sunday night and continued into the wee hours of Monday left destruction throughout the region and caused hundreds of thousands of outages statewide. Trees fell on homes and across streets, often taking power lines with them. Some who ventured to work Monday morning found their routes took well more than twice as long as normal.

In Norwich, crews worked for nearly 20 straight hours to bring the city’s outages down from a peak of 3,400 to closer to 700. According to NPU spokesman Chris Riley, the company at 5 p.m. placed one crew on call for emergencies and allowed everyone else to go home to rest.

NPU will have its entire contingent of linemen back on the job at 5 a.m. Tuesday, Riley said.

Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon said state Route 164 and several smaller town roads were closed or blocked in spots after the storm. Town highway crews cleared all downed trees not tangled in wires and began waiting for Eversource to assist with the rest. Almost 80 percent of the town remained without power at 6:30 p.m.

Numbers recorded by National Weather Service spotters show Groton and Mystic saw wind gusts from 66 to 73 mph during the storm.

As of 8 p.m. other area towns still had widespread outages. All 1,931 customers in Salem were without power. Montville, North Stonington, Waterford and East Lyme all had 2,000 or more customers still without power. And Stonington still had 3,438 customers or 43 percent of the town in the dark. Still Ledyard was the only town statewide that still had more than 5,000 outages — 5,310 — as of 8 p.m. That’s 81 percent of the town.

On Monday, residents across Ledyard could be seen cleaning up. Some, armed with chainsaws, tackled large trees that had fallen in their yards. Others gathered smaller but still sizable branches.

On Gallup Hill Road, employees of Elecnor Hawkeye LLC, a company contracted by Eversource, worked to chop up a tree that fell, taking wires with it.

All told, the storm impacted about 50 town roads.

Sitting in Town Hall charging their phones, a few residents relived the storm.

One, Colleen Wolber, lost her power around 10 p.m., the beginning of what she called a frightening night.

She heard the wind roaring. She heard a transformer pop, twice. Then she heard a tree snap.

“I thought, oh my God, it’s coming in my window,” Wolber said. “I have a big tree outside my window.”

It did fall, but into the parking lot and out of harm’s way. 

Wolber, armed with bottles of water, canned goods and a sleeping bag, was prepared to hunker down in her home at Fox Run Apartments.

“I’m just going to hang out and see what happens,” she said.

Most schools stay closed

Norwich Superintendent of Schools Abby Dolliver said all city schools had power and no damage, but school was closed because of road conditions both in Norwich and in surrounding towns.

Most schools in southeastern Connecticut closed for the day, although New London opened. In a statement, interim Superintendent Stephen Tracy said officials decided to have school because the schools had power, the city's roads were clear and only 1 percent of New London's residences were without power. City officials also took into consideration the hardship some families face when school is canceled.

The district received some backlash for the decision, particularly from parents worried about students who come to New London from neighboring towns.

Tracy said attendance Monday was somewhat lower than normal and that all storm-related absences would be considered excused.

Montville and Stonington have already cancelled school for Tuesday with Norwich announcing a two-hour delay. Other towns are expected to make a decision in early morning. 

Day Staff Writer Claire Bessette contributed to this report.

l.boyle@theday.com

Vehicles makes a U-turn upon finding a tree across Long Cove Road in Ledyard Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Vehicles makes a U-turn upon finding a tree across Long Cove Road in Ledyard Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
A tree rests across Plant St. in New London Monday, October 30, 2017. Homeowner Chris Vamvakides said the tree came down around midnight pushing a piece of the sidewalk into his car's front fender. 'If that's the worst damage I have, I'll take it,' he remarked. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
A tree rests across Plant St. in New London Monday, October 30, 2017. Homeowner Chris Vamvakides said the tree came down around midnight pushing a piece of the sidewalk into his car's front fender. "If that's the worst damage I have, I'll take it," he remarked. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Waves wash around a 14-foot sailboat washed-up on Greens Harbor Beach in New London Monday, October 30, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Waves wash around a 14-foot sailboat washed-up on Greens Harbor Beach in New London Monday, October 30, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
A utility pole stands snapped on Asylum Sreet in Norwich, Monday, October 30, 2017. A tree came down around 12:47 a.m. crushing four cars at a home across the street and snapped the pole in two causing an electrical transformer to explode.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
A utility pole stands snapped on Asylum Sreet in Norwich, Monday, October 30, 2017. A tree came down around 12:47 a.m. crushing four cars at a home across the street and snapped the pole in two causing an electrical transformer to explode. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
A gull flies by as strong winds take the tops off the waves crashing off Weekapaug Point in Westerly, Monday, October 30, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
A gull flies by as strong winds take the tops off the waves crashing off Weekapaug Point in Westerly, Monday, October 30, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Strong winds take the tops off the waves crashing off Weekapaug Point in Westerly, Monday, October 30, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Strong winds take the tops off the waves crashing off Weekapaug Point in Westerly, Monday, October 30, 2017. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Updates

For regular road-related updates, check out the following Facebook pages:

East Lyme police: www.facebook.com/eastlymepolice/

Ledyard police: www.facebook.com/ledyardpolicedept/

Montville police: www.facebook.com/montvillepolice/

Stonington police: www.facebook.com/Stonington-Police-Department-Connecticut-164103237082578/

Waterford police: www.facebook.com/WaterfordPolice/

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