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Trump approves emergency declaration for state in wake of Isaias

President Donald Trump has approved a presidential emergency declaration for the state of Connecticut in the wake of Tropical Storm Isaias, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Friday morning.

The declaration enables the state, Mashantucket Pequots, Mohegans and municipalities across Connecticut to request federal assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist in the response to the storm. The agency will reimburse these entities up to 75% of the costs for certain equipment and other resources.

The state, which is doing its own assessment of the damage, so far has requested generators from FEMA, 30 of which were being delivered Friday afternoon, said Bob Fogel, the FEMA official who is leading the response in Connecticut. Food and water also are being delivered to the state from FEMA’s warehouse in Franklin, Mass., and personal protective equipment and sanitary products are available as needed, Fogel said.

The state is doing its own assessment of the damage caused by Isaias and over the course of the next couple of days FEMA’s focus will be on understanding the state’s priorities and its assessment of power needs, Fogel said, adding that Connecticut is looking at elder care facilities, water treatment facilities, schools, police stations and other facilities.

"Approval of this declaration is very much appreciated as hundreds of thousands in our state remain without power days after the storm made landfall in Connecticut," Lamont said in a statement Friday. "We're continuing to work with our federal and local counterparts to assess the damage and may seek additional federal support during the response, recovery, and rebuilding process."

Lamont's administration also is working with the Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection to determine whether the state meets the thresholds to seek a major disaster declaration from the federal government, which would enable the state and its municipalities to receive even more federal assistance.

In a first for FEMA, the agency is allowing towns and cities to conduct virtual damage assessments, including sending photos and videos and flyovers by the Civil Air Patrol, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Fogel said.

“This comes at a very difficult time,” given the pandemic and the fact the state is preparing for a primary election on Tuesday, he said, but fortunately the Lamont administration and FEMA already were in regular contact since they’ve been working together closely in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Connecticut has been in a statewide state of emergency since Wednesday, when the governor applied for the presidential declaration, after Isaias tore through the state Tuesday, knocking out power for more than 700,000 homes and businesses — 343,160 of which remained in the dark Friday night.

The governor on Thursday activated the Connecticut National Guard, authorizing it to help utility companies restore electricity.

Eversource announced in a news release Friday afternoon that its “army of line and tree” crews have restored power to approximately 552,000 homes and businesses in Connecticut and expects to have the “vast majority” of the remaining customers without power back online by Tuesday at 11:59 p.m.

In New London, 1.20% of Eversource customers were still without power as of about 8 p.m. Friday; in Old Lyme, 24.12% of customers; in East Lyme, 5.34%; in Waterford, 5.89%; in Montville, 5.95%, and in Preston, 24.38%.

Lamont announced this week that he is requesting the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, or PURA, conduct a thorough investigation of the state's public utility companies, including Eversource. The governor's office in a news release called utility companies' response to the storm "wholly inadequate."

Lamont and several local legislators have called on Eversource to explain how a storm that had been forecasted well ahead of time, followed the track that meteorologists predicted and was relatively mild caused such widespread and long-lasting outages.

Meteorologists have forecasted the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, to be “extremely active,” with twice as many named storms expected.

t.hartz@theday.com

j.bergman@theday.com

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