As Power Outages Fall Gradually, Utilities Say Power Will Be On For Most By Early Next Week
The Hartford Courant
November 1, 2012
Power will be back on for more than 95 percent of the state by Monday or Tuesday, utility officials said on Thursday morning.
Connecticut Light & Power Co. Senior Vice President Bill Quinlan said the company estimates that power to a "substantial" percentage of its customers will be restored by Monday or Tuesday. When pressed for details, he said the company expects 98 percent of its customers to have power by then.
United Illuminating Company projected it will complete service restoration to 95 percent of its customers by the end of Monday.
"We fully understand that the loss of electricity seriously disrupts people's lives, and we have tapped into every resource at our disposal to restore electric service to all of our customers safely and as quickly as possible," said Anthony J. Vallillo, UI president and chief operating officer.
Quinlan said the projection depends on good weather and if CL&P can increase its number of line crews from the 1,080 it currently has to 2,000.
More than 630,000 customers statewide were without power at the peak of the outages.
The number dropped to about 345,000 by early Thursday morning, with about 107,968 customers in the dark in United Illuminating's shoreline towns and 237,146 out in Connecticut Light & Power's territory, many of which are on the shoreline.
Malloy vowed Wednesday night to hold utility companies accountable to meet timetables for restoration of electricity.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appeared with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and members of the state's congressional delegation in Bridgeport on Thursday after a tour of the area.
"We need to make sure the infrastructure of the state is made whole, and we understand the urgency of the situation," she said. "I'm pleased to say, by the way, that the shelter population in Connecticut has really gone down."
She said the president's direction to prepare for the storm by having people and resources in place before the storm hit had paid off. "More disaster recovery centers will open next week," she said.
"It's one thing to hear about damage, it's another thing to see it and understand the impact on people as they go through this."
"We're going to continue to work this storm," Napolitano said. "We'll work very closely with the governor and his team."
U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, appearing next to Napolitano, thanked Napolitano for federal assistance and stressed the role of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in restoring the state.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal echoed Lieberman's sentiments and urged people to go online to sign up for federal assistance.
"The spectacle of the disaster is staggering," he said.
He acknowledged "growing impatience and even anger" about the continued power outages and said he's heard local officials' concerns about a perceived lack of organization.
Malloy also announced that President Obama has approved a 100 percent cost share for ten days for emergency power restoration and emergency public transportation assistance for the four shoreline counties that have already received a major disaster declaration.
"As we continue with the recovery process from Hurricane Sandy, I am very appreciative of President Obama's commitment to the State of Connecticut and its residents." said Malloy. "We continue to work to get the state back to normal following this devastating storm."
Malloy also announced that he waived rail fares for Metro-North rail service between Stamford and New York's Grand Central Terminal on Thursday and Friday.
Partial service on rail lines hard hit by tree and water problems has resumed, Metro-North Commuter Railroad officials said. Service beyond Stamford will take longer to restore, the officials said.
Amtrak said it will also resume limited service from Springfield and New Haven today.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said Wednesday that the agency will speed federal disaster assistance to Connecticut and provide aid to displaced homeowners and low-income renters.
"Families who may have been forced from their homes need to know that help is available to begin the rebuilding process," said Donovan. "Whether it's foreclosure relief for families with FHA-insured loans or helping these counties to recover, HUD stands ready to help in any way we can."
Malloy said at an evening briefing in the State Armory that in two days of visiting towns hard-hit by the storm, he's heard two things consistently: Restoring power to people's homes is everybody's top priority and citizens are getting impatient.
"The utility companies have said they'll give us estimates on when everyone will have their power back. … Let's wait and see what they say. And then please know that I'll do my best to hold them accountable to the people of Connecticut," Malloy said, as vice presidents of Connecticut Light & Power Co. and United Illuminating stood nearby.
In the wake of Sandy, state hospitals say they have handled nearly 40 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning, as of Wednesday, and expect to see more in the next few days, according to Dr. Kelly Johnson-Arbor, director of the Hartford Hospital Wound and Hyperbaric Medicine Center. Most of the cases have been moderate, in which patients are treated with an oxygen mask, but a few cases have been serious enough that the patients had to go into a hyperbaric chamber at Norwalk Hospital.
Malloy reiterated his warning that if people are using combustion heaters during the power outage, they need to be vented properly.
In addition to carbon-monoxide issues, the state Department of Health announced a boil water advisory for 82 drinking water systems that serve 11,072 customers in Connecticut. It also warned of dangers of mold and advised residents to properly ventilate homes and clean mold when possible.
"Although Hurricane Sandy ravaged parts of the state, we are very fortunate that the majority of Connecticut's public drinking water systems were not affected," state health officials said.
While some towns reported slow but steady progress in recovery efforts, officials in others were frustrated.
On Tuesday, Jayme Stevenson, first selectman in Darien, called the response from the CL&P line crews "very good," but on Wednesday she was less pleased.
"It's going extremely slowly, I have to be honest with you," Stevenson said early Wednesday afternoon. She said the town has a minimum of 50, probably 100 roads closed or inaccessible. The Post Road is clear, she said, but off that road, "our town is basically impassable."
"So in spite of what you hear from CL&P, we are not in restoration mode," Stevenson said. "We are still in 'make safe' recovery mode here."
Storm Claims Three Lives In Connecticut
One person is missing and three people died in storm-related incidents, including a volunteer firefighter in Easton.
State police identified a person killed in Mansfield as Olga Raymond, 90. Raymond was killed when a tree fell on three residents of a home who had ventured outside after they lost power. An electric line became entangled in the tree and Raymond was killed, police said. The other two were treated at a hospital. Milford authorities said the body of Brian Bakunas, 34, of Milford was recovered from Long Island Sound on Tuesday. He had gone swimming Monday as the storm approached.
A kayaker identified as Jeff Kumweide, 23, of Milford, is still missing.
Shoreline Recovery Efforts; Disaster Declaration Approved
Coastal towns, which faced significant flooding and hurricane-strength wind gusts on Monday, were the hardest hit, and Malloy said federal disaster declaration has been approved for the four counties along the shore.
This declaration means the federal government will reimburse state and local agencies for 75 percent of the cost of the debris removal and other costs, and affected individuals may be eligible for a variety of disaster assistance services.
Residents who suffered damage from the storm must register with FEMA by phone or online to get aid, according to a release from Malloy's office.
"This declaration will bring much-needed financial assistance to residents who were impacted by Hurricane Sandy," Malloy said in the release.
To register by phone, residents can call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). The TTY line for people with speech or hearing disabilities is 1-800-462-7585. The line is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
If residents have disaster assistance questions, they may call the FEMA Helpline at 1-800-621-3362.
Insurance modeling company EQECAT said Hurricane Sandy is expected to cost a total of $10 billion to $20 billion in economic damages, and $5 billion to $10 billion in losses covered by insurers. For reference, Irene caused $10 billion in economic damages across the entire area it hit.
Courant staff writers Hilda Munoz, Josh Kovner, David Owens, Julie Stagis, Dave Altimari, Denise Buffa, Matthew Conyers, Christine Dempsey, Brian Dowling, Amanda Falcone, Steven Goode, Kenneth Gosselin, Alaine Griffin, Matthew Kauffman, Christopher Keating, Jesse Leavenworth, Jon Lender, Peter Marteka, Kathy Megan, Korky Vann and Bill Weir contributed to this report.