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Trees and wires fall as Isaias brings strong winds to region

New London — High winds brought down trees and wires, creating power outages throughout southeastern Connecticut, as Tropical Storm Isaias moved into the Northeast on Tuesday.

Western Connecticut State University meteorologist Gary Lessor said winds were regularly gusting over 40 miles per hour in southeastern Connecticut, and that Groton-New London Airport reported a gust of 54 mph just after 5 p.m. As expected, there wasn't much rain in the region: he said 0.2 inches. The National Weather Service had forecasted that most of the rain would fall over New York and New Jersey.

"We're probably at the peak now," Lessor said shortly before 6 p.m. Tuesday. He said the center of the storm on Tuesday evening was 20 miles west of Albany and moving north at 40 mph.

An Eversource map showed outages scattered across the New London County: As of 7:07 p.m., there were more than 5,400 in Old Lyme, 1,900 in East Lyme, 1,700 in Preston, 1,300 each in Lyme and Montville, and 1,200 each in Waterford and Salem. Eversource said Tuesday evening it was experiencing issues with its automated outage reporting system.

"I'm very disappointed," Niantic resident Judy MacDonald said of her inability to report that her power went out around 5:30 p.m. "I understand trees go down, I understand we have power outages, but I would like to be able to pick up the phone and report it."

New London Fire Department Battalion Chief Jonathan Paige said Tuesday evening that firefighters were dispatched to Colman Street for power lines across the roadway, and the road was closed between Broad Street and Jefferson Avenue. In that section is Burger King, where a smell of natural gas was reported, and Paige said the utilities to the building were secured but he didn't yet know the cause of the odor.

Paige said New London had at least three residents with trees on their houses, and the department got numerous calls about trees on wires.

Between 3 and 6 p.m., East Lyme Public Safety reported road closures of Pennsylvania Avenue near Sleepy Hollow Road, Flanders Road between Roxbury and Society roads, Route 161 near Westchester Road, Lovers Lane at Maplewood Drive, 24 North Washington Avenue to Grand Street, and more, due to downed trees.

Throughout the afternoon and evening, Groton Utilities reported on Facebook that there were power outages affecting people on Hazelnut Hill Road, in Groton Long Point, and on Fishers Island. A power outage affecting people on Meridian Street, Mitchell Street and Bridge Street was fixed by 6 p.m.

Norwich Public Utilities reported about 6,000 customers were without power at 6 p.m., with widespread tree damage on power lines.

“At this time, we are assessing damage caused by the storm, making our system safe and working to restore power as quickly and as safely as we can,” NPU spokesman Chris Riley said. “We are dealing with several dozen throughout Norwich and will be working diligently over the next several hours to restore power to everyone.”

NPU crews will concentrate on restoring power to the largest areas of outages, in the Cherry Hill area, Greeneville, Taftville and the New London Turnpike-West Main Street area.

Several Norwich roads throughout the city were closed in spots, with trees and lines blocking travel lanes. Norwich police said there were no major injuries or structural damage as of 6 p.m.

City Manager John Salomone said fire crews have been out in many locations responding to sparking wires and small fires. About 75 trees were down across the city. Public Works Department crews were working with NPU to clear trees off the streets once NPU crews make the area safe.

NPU warned people not to go near downed wires but to call 911 immediately, as did Gov. Ned Lamont in his brief virtual news conference at 4 p.m. Lamont encouraged people to stay off the roads if possible but said he didn't see a need at this point for an emergency declaration. He noted that Metro-North service was temporarily suspended and parts of the Merritt Parkway were closed in both directions.

Norwich city offices not involved in storm preparation and response and emergency services closed at noon Tuesday, with Salomone saying he made the decision to allow workers to go home safely before the high winds and rain reached the region.

Ledyard police reported that Route 214 was completely closed “due to a tree/wires situation” near Avery Hill Road.

In New London, Mr. G’s Restaurant posted on Facebook around dinnertime that it had lost power and temporarily could not take orders.

The National Weather Service had issued a tornado watch and coastal flood warning for southeastern Connecticut early Tuesday. By 4:30 p.m., the flood warning was cancelled but a flood advisory was put into effect for southern New London County until 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Breaking waves of 4 to 7 feet were expected on the shoreline, resulting in beach erosion with some damage possible to shoreline structures, the weather service warned.

The region has been under a tropical storm advisory since Monday, with residents advised to expect high winds but moderate rain. Isaias made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane in North Carolina on Monday night.

By Wednesday, skies are expected to be clear with a forecast of sun and temperatures in the high 80s, according to the weather service. But the weather service also put an air quality alert into effect for southern New London County from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday.

Day Staff Writers Claire Bessette and Taylor Hartz contributed to this report.

e.moser@theday.com

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