The damage from the rare October snowstorm was “far more damaging than Irene” state officials said Sunday evening and despite having 300 crews already on the ground, Connecticut Light & Power President Jeffrey Butler said most residents should be prepared to be without power for at least a week.
“The damage from this storm is far more extensive than what saw with Irene. We have been working alongside the (state) Department of Transportation and the tree damage is about five times worse,” Butler said during a press conference with Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Butler said CL&P already has 300 crews on the ground that are continuing to work with municipalities throughout the state to address emergency situations, but setting a time-line at this point is unrealistic.
During Tropical Storm Irene, CL&P reported a total of 687,000 customers without power, but there were 831,000 at the height of the storm assessment on Sunday, Butler said. CL&P reported 789,535 customers were without power as of 6:45 p.m., according to outage charts available throught the CL&P website.
“We are encouraging customers to be prepared for lengthy outages of week or more. Many will be inside that and we will update those projections as we begin to restore areas,” Butler said.
In the southern portion of the state, United Illuminating customers were far less impacted by the storm with just 19,000 losing power, according to UI Director of Corporate Communications Michael West. He said restoration efforts should be complete for UI customers by late Monday and crews would then be sent to assist with CL&P restoration efforts.
Electric providers were just a few of the utility companies affected by the storm, Malloy said Sunday evening, with cable and phone customers also being adversely affected by the storm.
“The providers impacted in the state, as I indicated earlier, were much more serious than Irene,” Malloy said. “Recovery is going to take longer and companies are in the process of drawing up plans. Cell service is better than it was after Irene but the areas affected suffered much more damage.”
Many distribution centers for gasoline and diesel fuel remain open and accessible, Malloy said, so although there were long lines throughout the state Sunday, there should be little impact to services.
Malloy reported that in addition to the power outages, an additional 70,000 Comcast customers and 30,000 Cox customers were without services including cable, Internet and phone. Electrical restoration is crucial in helping these efforts, he said.
There is help on the way. In addition to the 300 crews already on the ground level, which include liaisons to each CL&P municipality, Butler said there are 450 commitments from outside utility companies as far away as Tennessee and Missouri that have sent teams to assist in the efforts. These crews should be available to begin assisting with work Tuesday, he said.
Emergency situations including facilitating the removal of downed wires and restoring power to critical customers will be the first step in the process, both butler and Malloy said. After that, the liaisons will work directly with municipalities to identify a restoration plan.
Specialty crews have also been assigned to immediately address 44 transmission lines that were damaged, 21 of which resulted in substations being without power.
In the meantime, CL&P will continue to assess all damage and work to create a more detailed time-line for restoration.
“As soon as we get assessments, timely and accurate, we will get that to the towns as well as to our customers. Until we get all those assessments, I can’t predict anything,” Butler said. “When you look at the cold temperatures here, we know how important it is to get everything restored as quickly as possible.”