UPDATED: Utilities working to restore power
Hartford – Gov. Dannel P. Malloy today said that nearly 700,000 electricity customers across the state are still without power after the weekend's storm, and that service may not fully be restored for a week or more.
"We have never had as many people out of power as we have had as a result of this storm," the governor said this afternoon in the briefing room of the Emergency Operations Center at the state armory.
The outages affect 589,000 Connecticut Light & Power customers and 107,000 United Illuminating customers, according to Malloy.
Crews managed to restore power to about 170,000 CL&P customers and about 50,000 UI customers since the storm hit on Sunday.
"It's going to take a long period of time to restore all of the customers of CL&P because there has been extensive damage to the system," Malloy said. . "If on other occasions you have tended to have your service out for a long period of time, you're probably going to have your service out for a long period of time."
The governor surveyed some of the storm damage from the air this morning in an Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter. Also aboard was a FEMA representative working to document the damage for Connecticut's request for federal disaster aid.
The governor observed storm damage in the central Connecticut and the western shoreline during the hour and 20-minute flight, but officials said he did not have enough time to swing by southeastern Connecticut. The governor could take a second helicopter tour this week and he may then visit the New London-area from the air.
Malloy also said that Amtrak and Shore Line East rail service remains off line. MetroNorth was to begin operating on a Sunday schedule as of 2 p.m. today.
A Connecticut Light & Power executive said Monday afternoon at company headquarters that CL&P is prioritizing restoration based largely, though not only on geography as it repairs storm outages associated with Hurricane Irene.
"We take care of the largest part of the system first," said Ken Bowes, vice president of energy delivery services. "Then we work out through the substations, then the main lines that go into downtowns. Then the last thing we look at is the remote customers in the rural areas."
That could mean a longer wait for many customers east of the Connecticut River, the region hardest hit, according to Bowes. CL&P is sticking for at least one more day to projections of restoration times as "a week or more," though some 210,000 customers have been restored since Sunday, while 571,000 households and businesses still have no juice.
There are exceptions, however: mostly emergency and life-threatening situations like downed wires, which get dealt with immediately, he said.
Bowes spoke to five reporters at an impromptu press conference that took the place of one planned with CL&P President Jeff Butler. Malloy asked Butler to speak at a press conference at the Capitol scheduled for 5 p.m. to day.
At its peak at any given time, outages numbered 671,789, and the number continues to fluctuate, said company spokesman Frank Poirot, but he and Bowes said that 781,000 is the total they believe they're dealing with. Firmer numbers could come tomorrow as experts and dispatchers in the Emergency Operations Center here get a firmer grasp on where to send tree crews to clear roads along with municipal public works crews, clear downed, energized wires and repair schools, nursing homes and places with more needy populations, Bowes said.
Some school systems will be repaired in the next day or so while others won't be fixed until the end of the week, possibly longer, he said.
"The further you go out (from the main trunk lines), to the branches and twigs," Bowes said, equating the electrical infrastructure to a tree, "the longer it will take to restore power."
Three helicopters have been deployed to assess the transmission system from the air, particularly over the Eastern part of the state," Bowes said.
Bowes likened the severity of this storm to Hurricane Gloria, with a little less rainfall and a lot more wind and downed trees and tree limbs.
Estimates of when customers will be restored will be refined in the next day or two, Bowes said.
"Many, many of our customers will be restored inside this week," he said, noting it's too early to provide detailed assessments. "The number one obstacle here is getting the roads clear so we can do a detailed assessment. The initial reports are looking positive but there are several long weekdays ahead of us."
Staff in the EOC, likened to a military command center, work in 12-hour shifts, while crews in the field complete 16 hour shifts, followed by 8 hours off, he said.
While Groton Utilities spokesman Frank Winkler said that municipal utility expects to have electricity back to all 12,100 customers by tonight, CL&P is still estimating a week or more for repairs to be complete to the 487,000 households without power, Gross said.
The total number of outages numbered more than 650,000. CL&P has 1.2 million customers.
At Norwich Public Utilities, General Manager John Bilda said it will take at least two days to assess damage and then rebuild the infrastructure: erect poles, fix transformers and put wires back up.
Of its 22,000 customers, NPU has restored service to 5,700 of the 11,600 customers that were without power at the height of the storm, he said.
"Bear with us," Bilda said. "This was a major event. It is a big deal and we will work round the clock until the last light is lit."
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