President declares New London County, others, federal disaster areas

Residents survey the debris scattered across Pequot Avenue Tuesday in the area of Guthrie Beach in New London after Sandy's storm surge smashed beach houses Monday night.
Residents survey the debris scattered across Pequot Avenue Tuesday in the area of Guthrie Beach in New London after Sandy's storm surge smashed beach houses Monday night.

Hartford – President Obama today issued a major disaster declaration for Connecticut's four shoreline counties, including New London and Middlesex counties, in the aftermath of devastating and deadly Hurricane Sandy.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who announced the formal declaration on live television this evening, said he anticipates the federal government later expanding the designation to cover the entire state. The disaster declaration will, among other things, provide monetary reimbursement to storm-affected individuals and towns.

Details of specific relief services were not available. A disaster declaration followed Tropical Storm Irene last year, providing hundreds of dollars in emergency food stamps for nearly 24,000 residents.

"Getting assistance and relief into Connecticut is my top priority," Malloy said, "and I want everyone to know that I am squarely focused on it."

The governor said four Connecticut deaths and scores of injuries can be attributed to the ferocious storm. The death toll includes a kayaker and a swimmer in Milford, a firefighter in Easton and a 90-year-old man in Mansfield hit by a falling tree.

Malloy said Amtrak and MetroNorth rail service probably will not be running on Wednesday.

A state Department of Transportation official said tonight that it's uncertain whether Shore Line East service will be restored by tomorrow. Riders should check the line's website for the latest information:

All state employees are expected to return to work tomorrow.

Malloy spent most of the day touring damage in western Connecticut's shoreline communities while Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman visited Old Saybrook and East Lyme. The governor is scheduled to pick up his ground tour in Stonington and New London late Wednesday morning.

Based on aerial assessments, "hundreds" of homes and buildings across the state were either heavily damaged or destroyed in the storm.

Malloy said Sandy caused more extensive damage to the state than Irene, in some instances destroying sea walls. "It is extraordinary – the scope of the damage," he said.

Drawing from the day's observations, the governor said most homeowners with waterfront property heeded evacuation warnings.

"It was the folks who were just a little bit further in, who had never seen the type of rise in water that we experienced yesterday, who didn't listen as well, and that was the real problem," Malloy said.

Nearly 700,000 utility customers across the state were without power at the peak of the outages. As of early this evening, about 430,000 Connecticut Light & Power customers were still in the dark although power had been restored for 210,000.

A CL&P official said he anticipates at least one more day of damage assessments before setting a timetable for full restoration.

United Illuminating, which services areas of western Connecticut, reported 146,000 customers still without power, down from its peak of 194,000 customers.

The governor was unaware of any looting, aside from the anecdote about a would-be thief who tried to steal a safe from an auto parts store in Bridgeport but was caught by National Guardsmen.

Wyman recalled hearing many sad yet inspiring stories today from resilient southeastern Connecticut residents who lost property in the storm.

"Fortunately for us, Connecticut residents are tough, and I know that the people I met in southeastern Connecticut today are proof of that," Wyman said. "I know that they will rebuild and succeed."


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