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Crane brings down power cables, prompts highway shutdowns

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Groton — A crane driving along Interstate 95 snagged several 35,000-volt power lines Tuesday morning, bringing two down and causing what officials called "a severe emergency."

The incident shut down the highway for hours and caused major backups on state roads, resulted in power outages and some small fires, and led Groton Public Schools to cancel school for the day.

Shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday, Groton Utilities announced on its Facebook page that the highway had been reopened in both directions and crews were just completing finishing touches on the repairs. "Thank you everyone for your patience and understanding," the statement said.

Len Mediavilla, general manager of Groton Utilities, said the state Department of Transportation contractor crane, which was working on signage on the highway, snagged the lines just after 3:30 a.m. The accident forced police to close the highway in both directions for almost four hours, and it knocked out power in Midway Oval, Mumford Cove and Groton Long Point, as well as Fishers Island, N.Y.

State police then planned two shutdowns of both sides of Interstate 95 between exits 87 and 88 in the afternoon and evening so crews could replace the two hefty cable lines before dark and before incoming rain.

About 3:45 p.m., Groton Utilities reported on its Facebook page that repair crews had wrapped up the first set of repairs.

State police said Interstate 95 Exit 87 Northbound and Exit 88 Southbound lanes would be closed for about an hour Tuesday evening, starting at 6:15 p.m., for the second set of repairs. Officials had said each shutdown could last up to two hours, depending on how long it would take crews to stretch the cables across the highway and lift them up the steel towers that hold them. Officials urged drivers to seek alternate routes.

Mediavilla said the incident impacted the Poquonnock substation and affected 4,012 "customer points," many of which serve more than one customer. He didn't have an estimate of how many customers were affected, but said crews rerouted power and had all customers back in service by 7:29 a.m.

Mediavilla said six 35,000-volt cables typically span the area between exits 88 and 87, where the incident happened. He said officials don't believe the impact damaged the steel towers that hold the cables, but it's possible more than just the two downed cables were damaged.

Members of Groton Utilities, after devising a plan with DOT, had a bucket truck on scene assessing the damage about noon Tuesday.

Mediavilla said the cost of the damage wasn't yet known "but it's rather extensive."

"We consider this an emergency and plan to keep working on this situation to restore the lines into the normal condition as soon as possible," he said.

DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said A.M. Rizzo out of Danbury, the prime contractor for the work, was removing overhead sign supports when Derby-based subcontractor A Quick Pick Crane drove the crane down the road with its boom up, striking the lines.

Nursick said the DOT wasn't aware of any other damage stemming from the incident.

No one was injured.

k.drelich@theday.com

l.boyle@theday.com  

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