Storm floods streets, knocks down trees in southeastern Connecticut
Authorities across southeastern Connecticut on Thursday were dealing with the fallout from an overnight storm that caused power outages, downed trees, flooding and other issues.
New London Fire Chief Thomas Curcio said the fire department received 27 calls Wednesday night, with all but a couple of them storm-related, and over a dozen calls on Thursday.
A downed tree landed on a person Thursday morning in the area of Ocean Avenue and Shirley Lane. Curcio said firefighters were able to free the injured individual, a contractor working to clear debris from a resident's yard, from under the tree before loading the person into an ambulance.
Downed wires and flooding prompted road closures, and firefighters helped people trapped inside their cars by floodwaters. Firefighters also rescued a man trapped in his basement because of flooding, lowering a ladder into a window to remove him.
Joseph Lanzafame, New London director of public utilities, and Curcio said particular problem areas for flooding included Bank Street, Broad Street and Pequot Avenue, where water from the Thames River came onto the street. Flooding also was an issue from Tilley Street to Howard Street and in the Greens Harbor Beach area.
New London Public Works Director Brian Sear said the massive drainage project recently completed at the Greens Harbor park appears to have done its job and mostly protected the park and roadway from erosion. The road was covered with mud, however, due to runoff from areas where newly planted grass had not yet been established.
Sear said crews from his department dealt with heavy flooding around the city from about 11 p.m. Wednesday to 4 a.m. Thursday, before floodwaters started to subside. The massive amount of rain flowing through the city's stormwater system was met with resistance from a high tide, he said, which slowed the rate of the receding water. Lanzafame said public utilities had four employees out Wednesday night checking catch basins.
A massive tree fell across Pequot Avenue and onto power lines in the area of Shirley Lane and blocked the road. Sear said Eversource worked to ensure safe conditions before crews started cutting the tree. At 2:30 p.m. Thursday, 271 of New London's 13,893 Eversource customers were without power. Scattered handfuls of customers remained without power as of 8:30 p.m.
Western Connecticut State University Meteorologist Gary Lessor said the storm brought "copious amounts" of rain. While most parts of the state received between 1½ and 4 inches of rainfall, southeastern Connecticut received more — 6.15 inches in Norwich, 6.14 inches in central Waterford, 5.68 inches in Uncasville, 5.14 inches in New London and 4.82 inches in East Lyme.
The highest wind gusts in the state were measured at 60 mph at the Groton-New London Airport, Lessor said.
Lessor called it "one of the most impressive storms of 2019," and Lanzafame said, "Nature continues to teach us humility."
Stonington’s problems came from the winds.
Offshore gusts as great as 70 miles an hour were measured at one of the Stonington Harbor outer breakwaters. Downed trees and power lines around town caused widespread power outages and closed roads. At least a half-dozen boats washed ashore, including three on Wamphassuc Point, one off Elihu Island and another tossed into the west outer breakwater in Stonington Harbor.
No storm-related injuries were reported, according to police.
“The rain wasn’t the issue here. It is the winds and high tide,” First Selectman Rob Simmons said.
Sections of 34 roads, including main thoroughfares such as Route 27, Route 184, North Main Street, Main Street in the borough, Pequot Trail, River Road in Pawcatuck and Al Harvey Road, all were closed or partially blocked on Thursday. Simmons said he expected roads to be reopened by Thursday night, as highway department crews were clearing streets as soon as Eversource crews shut off power.
Residents flocked to the borough to take photos of waves at Stonington Point and of a massive tree that had fallen onto a stately home at 176 Water St. on the west side of Wadawanuck Square. Borough Fire Chief Jeff Hoadley said the tree broke some windows and soffits and allowed water to enter the second floor of the house. He said it did not take down any wires, as they are located on the other side of the street. Hoadley said he expected crews using a crane to take down the tree Friday. The section of Water Street by the home will remain closed until then.
By 2:15 p.m. Thursday, 2,691 customers, almost 25 percent of the 10,878 Eversource customers in town, were without power. In neighboring Westerly, almost 90 percent, or more than 13,400, customers were without power as of 1 p.m., forcing many businesses to close for the day. Schools in both Stonington and Westerly were closed.
Simmons said the situation was particularly bad on Masons Island, where many old trees and power lines came down. He said at one point the western edge of the Masons Island causeway was underwater due to high tide.
Stonington police Capt. Todd Olson cautioned residents to avoid downed trees due to the potential of live wires.
East Lyme saw some minor flooding and road closures, police Chief Mike Finkelstein said, with mostly residential areas affected. A tree came down at Giants Neck near Niantic and there was flooding by Crescent Beach, he said.
At 2:30 p.m., 758 of East Lyme's 10,099 Eversource customers were without power. That number had dwindled to 142 by 8:40 p.m.
Groton City had two minor incidents, according to fire Capt. Mark Cassidy: a tree fell on some wires on Nathan Hale Road and water leaked through a roof. Fire Chief Ted Sargent said the department had received only a few calls for downed wires and there weren't flooding issues.
Groton Town Police Chief Louis J. Fusaro Jr. said some trees blocked the roadway on West Mystic Avenue, and Route 12 near Crystal Lake flooded. Firefighters assisted a partially submerged car close to Poquonnock Bridge.
As of 8:40 p.m., 335 of Groton's 5,623 Eversource customers remained without power.
Norwich Public Works Director Patrick McLaughlin said his city had some localized flooding at the height of the storm, on Dunham, Asylum and West Town streets. He said it's probably the worst time of year for so much rain because leaves can cover and clog catch basins.
Norwich Public Utilities spokesperson Chris Riley said by email that a couple of houses had flooded basements, and early Thursday morning there was one power outage impacting the Laurel Hill area when a tree fell, breaking a utility pole. Initially about 1,000 customers were out of power, but crews were able to quickly restore electricity to all but 52. The town anticipated having the pole replaced and all power restored by about 5 p.m.
Waterford's alert system sent out emails Thursday morning saying a tree had fallen on overhead wires, temporarily closing Pepperbox Road, and another warned of "considerable flooding" at the intersection of Route 156 and Route 213.
At 2:30 p.m. Thursday, 879 of Waterford's 9,812 Eversource customers were without power. Only 149 remained without power at 8:45 p.m.
Day Staff Writer Greg Smith contributed to this report.
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