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CL&P estimates power restoration will take 24 hours or more

By Anna Isaacs, Claire Bessette and Sasha Goldstein

Publication: theday.com

Published February 09. 2013 11:30AM   Updated February 09. 2013 11:11PM
Tim Cook/The Day
Crystal Avenue residents in New London start the slow process of digging out Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, after a blizzard dumped more than a foot of snow over the region.

8:01 p.m. update

East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica said town crews have been out working since 7 a.m. Friday, and snow-plow crews have passed over all town roads at least once. On Sunday, crews will continue to work on snow removal to plow roads more than once. He also called the state Department of Transportation regarding help with plowing Route 161.

To help restore power, a CL&P line crew worked with town personnel Saturday. The Flanders power substation also was repaired Saturday, he said.

7:28 p.m. update

East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica said Saturday evening that about 87 people were at the regional shelter at the East Lyme Middle School for East Lyme, Old Lyme, Montville, Waterford and New London.

He advised residents to bring essentials such as medications, blankets and pillows with them to the shelter. He said caged or leashed animals are permitted there.

The National Guard was in the process of picking up and driving residents to the shelter Saturday. In East Lyme, six Humvees were making the rounds Saturday evening, said Fire Marshal Dick Morris.

7:25 p.m. update

Connecticut Light & Power said Saturday night that 35,000 customers remained without power following the record-breaking snowfall and high winds that hit the state.

"Road conditions are hazardous and have made travel difficult for our line workers and tree workers," said Bill Quinlan, CL&P senior vice president of Emergency Preparedness. "We will continue working around the clock and expect to make strong progress in the harder hit southeastern part of the state; however, some customers may be without power for a day or more."

Estimated restoration times for specific areas will be updated under the "My Outage Status" link at www.cl-p.com and at (800) 286-2000, Quinlan said.

When specific restoration estimates become available, CL&P will also make periodic calls to update customers.

State Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick said that all highways in the state are considered passable, but many are functioning with reduced lanes.

"There's so much snow," Nursick said, "so much snow that we're having great difficulty getting highways open to their full width."

Nursick estimates that about 50 percent of the highway ramps across the state are not functional, because of the snow.

The department has been clearing the roads with 632 state plow trucks and 200 contractor trucks.

"I think this recovery is going to take days in terms of the transportation infrastructure," he said, but added that each day drivers will see an improvement.

He urged people to refrain from driving if possible. He said most people heeded the department's warning and stayed off the roads, but some drivers had to abandon their vehicles because they ran into trouble on the snowy roads.

6:20 p.m. update

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has announced that he has submitted a request for a presidential emergency declaration.

"As we continue with the recovery from this historic winter storm, I am asking the federal government to provide us assistance with this process," he said. "If granted, this declaration would provide much needed help to our state."

6:15 p.m. update

New London - Mayor Daryl Finizio said all of the city's public works personnel have been called in and are "working around the clock" to clear snow from streets. The city has also hired two contracting firms to assist in removing snow.

"We have as many plows on the street as we can," he said.

But full snow removal on roads could take days because of the sheer volume and weight of the snow, said Finizio, and there is no definite estimate of when all roads will be clear. He is asking residents to remain patient as crews work on clearing roads and urges them to continue to report power outages to CL&P.

Finizio said all roads are still considered closed, and it is imperative that residents remain off them for safety reasons. City personnel will be blocking off State and Bank streets later this evening until about midnight to allow crews to remove snow, but he added that the times are approximate because of the weather conditions.

Keeping lanes open for access to the hospital remains a priority, he said.

5:47 p.m. update

In Stonington borough, Warden Paul Burgess said late this afternoon that all roads are passable with the exception of several areas where there are downed wires. These are Diving Street at Hancox Street, Elm Street at High Street, Broad Street and Bayview Avenue, where a utility pole snapped in front of the American Velvet Mill.

Almost all of the borough has power except for a small section of homes on the east side of the footbridge.

Burgess said the borough's two-person highway crew worked 36 hours straight before going home around mid-day. He said they will be back removing snow on Sunday with the help of several contractors. A few borough restaurants are open this evening.

5:30 p.m. update

Mitch Gross, media spokesman for Connecticut Light & Power, said the company is assessing the damage from the storm, which includes heavy snowfall and downed wires.

Restoration efforts will begin once CL&P assesses the damage.

"Some customers in the southeastern part of the state may be without power for 24 hours," he said at about 5 p.m.

He said the company has hundreds of line workers and tree workers in the region and is setting up staging areas in Madison and at the Waterford Speedbowl.

"There was a great deal to assess and repair," he said. "We will do everything we can to move as quickly and as safely as we can."

The company is working with towns to coordinate efforts, and the region remains among the hardest-hit in the state, he said.

"What took place along the coast mirrors the path of the blizzard," he said.

3:18 p.m. update

The travel ban on all roads, including major highways, will be lifted at 4 p.m., according to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.

"While we are lifting the ban on travel this afternoon at 4PM, I still want to urge residents to stay off the roads if at all possible," Malloy said in a press release. "Crews are out clearing roadways as we speak, but the fact is we are going to feel the impact of this storm for some time. The longer we can keep traffic out of town centers and off of our highways, the more effective our recovery effort will be."

3:16 p.m. update

About 770 Connecticut National Guard troops are active this weekend, and some already are assisting state and local officials responding to the blizzard and the cleanup, Lt. Col. John Whitford said today.

National Guardsmen are assisting today in East Lyme to transport about 40 senior citizens who lost power to a regional shelter set up in the town, Whitford said. A similar assignment could come in Old Lyme today as well, he said.

Even before the storm, this weekend was a scheduled training weekend for 500 National Guard troops throughout the state. Another 270 troops were placed on active duty Friday night when the storm intensified.

Whitford said since 11 p.m. Friday, National Guard troops have been assisting stranded motorists on the state's highways, responding to 67 calls, including two medical emergencies in which people were taken to local hospitals. He said most of the calls were in central Connecticut.

National Guard crews also are available to help municipalities clean up from the storm. While they would not do traditional road plowing, the Guard does have heavy equipment to help with snow removal, Whitford said.

3 p.m. update

Gov. Dannel Malloy visited the East Lyme regional shelter this afternoon, sitting with residents who lost power in the cafeteria of the East Lyme Middle School.

"They're moving in everything you need - food and carts. We're trying," said Malloy to a group of residents that included Jacquelyn Goodwin, of Niantic, who came to the shelter this morning. Goodwin lost power Friday evening; she loses power during every storm, she said.

A table at the shelter contained coffee and snacks, and a station was set up for sandwiches.

About seven residents were taking advantage of the shelter as of 2 p.m.

State Rep. Ed Jutila, D-East Lyme, First Selectman Paul Formica and Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward helped bring boxes and cots with Red Cross personnel into the shelter.

"This part of the state was badly hit," Malloy said about his reasons for visiting the region. He said the region's proximity to the water and high winds made it vulnerable to power outages.

The National Guard, out helping elderly residents leave their homes, is expected to arrive at the shelter shortly with residents.

Ronald Luich, the Red Cross shelter manager, said the first guest came at about 8 a.m. He is expecting a larger crowd later today.

"We're estimating 60 or 70 this evening," he said.

2:53 p.m. update

Waterford – Snow plows will continue to focus on the main drags as crews begin digging the roads out of about 2 feet of snow.

Waterford Police Chief Murray J. Pendleton said plows had to abandon the roads Friday night as the blizzard intensified. Road crews returned to work around 8 a.m. today.

"The actual plowing of the roads did not take place until the majority of the storm subsided," he said.

Main thoroughfares like Boston Post Road, Clark Lane, Route 32 and Rope Ferry Road are "passable," he said, but "not the roads that we're accustomed to driving on."

"They're bumpy, they're ruddy, they're snow-covered," he said.

Pendleton said plows will focus first on clearing these streets and work their way into connector roadways and finally into residential neighborhoods later today.

"It's a work in progress as we speak," he said.

Waterford residents can seek shelter at the Community Center, at 24 Rope Ferry Road, Waterford police said on its Facebook page. The center has power and heat and is offering cots and food.

Elderly residents who need help getting out of their homes should call Waterford police at (860) 442-9451 for a ride to the shelter.

2:12 p.m. update

All 632 of the state Department of Transportation's trucks were still out there as of 12:30 p.m., plus more than 200 private contractor trucks that the DOT hired, said Judd Everhart, DOT spokesman.

"Our drivers go for 17 hours straight and then get a 3 hour break, then get back on the road. But this is what we do and we are very much back in control now that the snow has stopped," Everhart said in an email.

"There are still many stranded cars out there, especially on local roads. The Governor's travel ban has been extremely helpful in limiting the number of cars that our guys have to plow around," he said.

1:47 p.m. update

Meteorologist Gary Lessor has just one adjective for the storm that just walloped New England: "Phenomenal."

"No other words to describe it," he said.

Lessor, of the Weather Center at Western Connecticut State University, said this blizzard could end up knocking the other whopper of recent memory out of its second-place spot in New England history – the blizzard of '78, which rolled in 35 years ago Thursday.

In terms of intensity, he said – the snowfall and powerful winds – this storm has its '78 predecessor beat. The highest snow accumulation in the state clocked in at 38 inches in Milford, and the highest wind gust blew through Westport at 82 mph.

Lessor said in some places, 4 to 5 inches of snow fell per hour, coupled with 40- to 50-mph winds, creating whiteout conditions with close to zero visibility for hours at a time.

The wide swaths of power outages throughout southeastern Connecticut had powerful winds to thank. As of 4:45 p.m., CL&P reported 36,957 customers without power.

An average of 25 inches of snow buried New London County, with 30 inches reported in Old Saybrook.

Inch counts throughout the region included:

Putnam: 26

Norwich: 25.5

Colchester: 25

Gales Ferry: 24

Lisbon: 23

Ledyard: 22

Mystic: 21

Stonington: 21

The Weather Center does not yet have an inch count for snow accumulation in Groton.

As experts weigh this blizzard's severity in the coming days, one factor may bounce this storm back to third place: The blizzard of '78 hit during the week. Storm rankings depend not only on the storm stats themselves, Lessor said, but on their practical effects.

"The only thing that his storm does not have going for it is that it's happening Friday night into the weekend," he said, "so the impact isn't the same as having it on a Monday morning."

Still, Lessor said, he believes the blizzard of 2013 will win out in the end.

"I think this is going to end up being the second-most intense blizzard in New England history… when everything is said and done," he said.

The storm worked its way northward into Connecticut early Friday morning, with snowfall starting in the area around 7:30 a.m. As of noon Saturday, Lessor said, there was still some light snow being reported in Groton.

The worst blizzard in the region's history remains the blizzard of 1888. That storm buried Middletown in 50 inches of snow – the only officially recorded accumulation in the state, Lessor said.

"That basically just paralyzed everybody," he said. "Throughout the state it was just absolute gridlock for days on end because obviously they didn't have the tools to get rid of it."

Though the region is in the clear for now, Lessor said meteorologists will be keeping an eye on rain Monday night into Tuesday, and possibly some snow Wednesday night into Thursday.

12:26 p.m. update

The Old Lyme Emergency Operations Center is open and residents with special needs or facing power outages are advised to call the center (860) 598-0120, according to a town press release.

A shelter at the East Lyme Middle School on 31 Society Road in East Lyme is open. Officials are advising residents to bring medications, toiletries, blankets and pillows. Pets are allowed, as long as they have a leash, food, food bowls, rabies tags or proof of vaccination.

Later today, a respite center will open at the Lymes Senior Center at 26 Town Woods Road, where meals will be provided and Wi-Fi access and restrooms will be available, the release stated.

Town officials are continuing to clear roads and advised residents to avoid driving and steer clear of downed wires.

"This storm has presented challenges that we have not seen in years, with the need to bring in heavier equipment to move the snow and keep the plows working," the release stated. "Road conditions are poor, so it is important to stay off the roads and allow the crews to get their work done. Numerous roads and streets have trees and power lines obstructing travel lanes."

12:02 p.m.

Stonington - With 60 percent of homes and businesses here without power as of noon and temperatures expected to dip into the single digits tonight, the town expects to open the emergency shelter at the high school early this afternoon.

Officials at the emergency operations center said this morning that before they can open the center, they have to clear snow from the high school parking lot and then transport Red Cross volunteers to the high school.

With roads still closed, residents who need shelter will be able to call the center at 860- 599-7583 or 599-7584 and police officers in SUVs will bring them to the shelter.

Because of this, First Selectman Ed Haberek encouraged residents without power to first seek out friends and relatives with power before calling for a ride to the shelter.

Numerous downed trees and wires have made roads across town impassable including major thoroughfares such as North Main and North Water streets south of Route 1, Jerry Browne Road at Mistuxet Avenue and River Road at Rivercrest Drive.

In all there are 110 reports of downed trees and wires and 25 blown transformers.

Police captain Jerry Desmond said that during the night calls reporting power outages and downed trees and wires flooded the police department communications center.

"Our dispatchers did a great job handling them," he said.

Haberek said a large number of CL & P crews are currently working to repair a major substation and power line that feeds the town.

In addition, he said wires are down and covered by snow, some in wooded areas. In those areas he said it may be days before customers in those areas have power restored. He said CL & P should have restoration estimate available later today.

"This is like Hurricane Sandy with a super snowstorm," he said.

After the October hurricane 95 percent of the town was without power and it took almost a week to restore the entire town.

Police Chief J. Darren Stewart said residents need to be aware of the fact that where they are shoveling of children playing there could be downed power lines covered in snow.

"The best thing people can do is to hunker down for a few days and enjoy your company," he said.

While the roads here are technically closed, a large number of plowing contractors were out this morning clearing driveways and parking lots. Route 1 was passable this morning with four-wheel drive.

During the night, Stewart said police cruisers were unable to get through the heavy snow so police had to make use of three sport utility vehicles and the animal control truck to respond to calls. On medical calls, high department plows cleared the way for ambulances and police.

Stewart said a Pawcatuck woman who twisted her knee, fell in the snow and could not get up was then struck by a falling tree limb. She escaped serious injury.

Emergency Preparedness Director George Brennan cautioned people with direct vent furnaces to make sure they clear snow from the vents.

11:30 a.m. update

In Preston, one snow plow is stuck in a ditch on Lewis Road, and several roads are blocked by trees and tangled wires down, First Selectman Robert Congdon said.

CL&P is reporting 232 Preston customers without power as of 11:30 a.m.

Roads blocked by trees and lines include Prodell, Brickyard and Mathewson Mill roads.

Congdon is "cautiously optimistic" that schools can reopen Monday but that would depend on how well the roads have been cleared.

"We're going to get the roads opened up the best they can and then we'll let them get some sleep and go back tomorrow," Congdon said of the town road crews.

Norwich Public Works Department crews are grappling with equipment breakdowns caused by the heavy snow and will concentrate today's snow removal efforts on clearing main thoroughfares in the city, City Manager Alan Bergren said.

Bergren has participated in conference calls between Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and municipal leaders throughout the state.

Malloy announced during his 11 a.m. press conference today that 270 National Guard troops have been deployed and a few hundred more will be assigned to work with state and municipal departments to clean up from the storm.

Bergren said he will discuss that possibility with Public Works Director Barry Ellison today and might seek National Guard assistance to clear the city.

"Certainly we welcome the steady efforts of the governor to keep in touch with the municipalities throughout the storm," Bergren said.

Norwich Public Utilities corrected its outage numbers this morning. At peak, 750 customers were without power.

Currently 163 customers are without power, with 141 out in the Sunny Waters Mobile Home Park in Occum.

11:20 a.m. update

"Stay home" Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told a socked-in state Saturday morning as the massive blizzard wound down after dropping up to 38 inches in some parts of the state.

Malloy signed an executive order banning travel on all road ways to keep them cleared for emergency responders.

He also noted the 39,000 Connecticut Light & Power customers, the majority in southeastern Connecticut, in the dark. CL&P is staging crews at the Waterford Speedbowl and Hammonasset State Park in Madison, but responses will be limited by impassable roads and high winds, Malloy said.

Outages around 11 a.m. topped 7,700 in East Lyme, 6,584 in Waterford, 2,492 in New London, 3,981 in Old Lyme and 4,159 in Stonington. About 36,000 of the 39,000 statewide totals are in southeastern Connecticut.

"CL&P is massing resources in that part of the state," Malloy said, with a CL&P news conference expected later today.

Malloy said 270 National Guardsmen are on duty, with more expected. State police responded to more than 1,600 calls during the last 24 hours, Malloy said, including to one fatality in the state stemming from the storm. Malloy said an 81-year-old woman using her snowplow in Prospect Friday night was hit by a car, which fled the scene.

Malloy said the travel ban, on all roads throughout the state, will be extended at least through today. Malloy will make another statement around 6 p.m. this evening.

8 a.m. update

In Stonington, more than 50 percent, or about 4,125 CL&P customers are without power. First Selectman Ed Haberek reported by phone from the town's Emergency Operations Center that roads are practically impassable with snow, trees and wires down everywhere.

"The amount of roads that don't have trees down are less than the ones that do," he said. "We're trying to dig out right now. Guys have been working all night; they're wiped but trying to keep up. We're asking people to give patience as we try to get roads open for access."

"We're already getting calls for shelter," Haberek said around 7:30 this morning. By 10 or 11 a.m., Stonington High School is expected to open as a second regional shelter.

Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio in New London said a plan was being crafted to evacuate people from an elderly housing complex that has lost power. New London has 1,823, or 13 percent of CL&P customers without electricity.

"We're also monitoring our ongoing removal efforts and concentrated on trying to keep the main arteries open, especially the avenues to the hospital," Finizio said. "It's all hands on deck but obviously with the degree of snowfall, there's only some much we can keep pace with. Mother Nature is a pretty powerful force here."

Around 8 a.m., Finizio said plow crews were reporting people walking around, impeding the snow removal process.

"There's downed wires everywhere and it's a major public safety risk to be out now, so go home and stay home until we can get this under control," Finizio said.

News by Town

Most Recent Poll
Finally, there is sunlight at the end of the snow tunnel. How will you spend your snowbound Saturday?
Dig out and then check in on neighbors to be sure they're OK.
41%
Whip up some comfort food and enjoy a lazy day at home.
32%
Shiver in the dark. We haven't had power since last night.
20%
Strap on snowshoes and go exploring.
6%
Number of votes: 667

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