Region scrambles to clean up, restore power after storm

Utility line trucks from Hawkey-Elecnor, a contractor in Hauppauge, N.Y., depart the parking lot at the Crystal Mall in Waterford, where they had been staging all day, on Wednesday, March 7, 2018.  (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Utility line trucks from Hawkey-Elecnor, a contractor in Hauppauge, N.Y., depart the parking lot at the Crystal Mall in Waterford, where they had been staging all day, on Wednesday, March 7, 2018. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

As crews worked to restore power to the thousands of customers who lost it during Wednesday's forceful snowstorm, some area schools were closed for the second straight day Thursday.

East Lyme, Ledyard, Montville, Lyme-Old Lyme and Salem were among the districts that called off classes for a second day. St. Bernard School in Uncasville also was closed Thursday. Other schools were on a delayed start.

Montville initially was the heaviest hit, but its outages fell below that of Old Lyme on Thursday evening. According to Eversource's outage map, more than 1,900 customers were without power in Montville as of 9:15 p.m., compared to more than 2,000 in Old Lyme. Hundreds more outages remained in Lyme, Ledyard, Preston and North Stonington.

The American Red Cross opened a regional shelter at Montville High School on Thursday evening. Road closures remained on Old Colchester Road at Adamo Avenue, Meeting House Lane and Old Colchester Road at Black Ash Road.

In a 4:30 p.m. update on its website, the town of Old Lyme said crews would be working overnight to repair damaged lines on Whippoorwill Road, Neck Road, Shore Road, Saunders Hollow Road, Beta Avenue and Osceola Trail. Earlier, downed trees and power lines caused closures on some of those roads, along with Flat Rock Hill Road, Matson Ridge and Johnnycake Hill Road.

The town said the Lymes' Senior Center will reopen Friday as a warming center from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Town Hall, which was operating on generator power on Thursday, will reopen at 9 a.m. on Friday, though services may be limited.

The town said drivers should be extremely cautious because the rising temperatures on Thursday could lead to flooding on roads in low-lying areas. Residents with storm-related questions can contact the emergency operations call center at (860) 598-0120.

When Wednesday's storm started as rain for much of the day, Norwich Public Utilities officials thought they might be spared major damage. But by 7 p.m., with heavy wet snow coming down hard, that changed.

Snow and slush accumulated quickly on trees and wires, and power outage reports came in from all corners of the city, NPU Assistant General Manager Chris LaRose said Thursday.

"This was a little heavier snow and happened much quicker than expected," LaRose said. "We were not expecting to have as much damage as we had, since it started as rain."

At the peak, Norwich had about 1,000 customers without power scattered among numerous neighborhoods. Crews worked through the night, and power was restored to the final dozen customers by 1 p.m. Thursday.

NPU crews spent the rest of Thursday afternoon inspecting and assessing problem areas, such as sagging wires and places where trees or limbs were leaning on poles and wires. LaRose said fixing those problems might entail brief outages if crews needed to cut power to a few customers to safely remove trees or limbs.

According to the state Department of Transportation, a portion of Route 156 in Old Lyme was closed for about eight hours because of a downed tree. Route 216 was closed near Dennison Hill Road in North Stonington for the same reason.

North Stonington Volunteer Fire Company Lt. Matt McGowan said Thursday evening that Rocky Hollow Road remained closed, with primary wires down on the roadway.

Day Staff Writers Lindsay Boyle, Erica Moser, Kimberly Drelich and Claire Bessette contributed to this report.

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