The heavy rains and strong winds caused by Hurricane Irene certainly caused a considerable amount of damage in town and left thousands without power, but town officials have a different take today than many across the state: it could have been worse.
When the town continues with clean-up efforts following Sunday’s storm, most roads will already be reopened and Southington residents won’t be hearing any stories of injuries or deaths caused by the storm, which was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reached Southington.
The band of clouds passed over with more bark than bite and Town Manager Garry Brumback said late Sunday that the community is in a position to recover from the storm in a fairly quick manner.
“We really did dodge a bullet here in Southington,” said Town Manager Garry Brumback. “While we did have some damage and power outages, there were no fatalities and no serious storm-related injuries. We expect many residents could have power back up within the next couple days.”
Connecticut Light and Power reported that as of 8:45 a.m., the number of residents without power had already been reduced to 999, representing just 5 percent of Southington. At its peak there were 3,870 outages in Southington, CL&P staff said Sunday.
Compared to the rest of CL&P customers in the state – 52 percent of which were still without power as of 11:30 p.m. Sunday – Southington reported the 13th lowest percentage of the 147 municipalities reporting damage.
In fact outage reports as of 9:55 a.m. showed that 586,359 were without power representing 47 percent of CL&P customers. At one point there were 24 municipalities that were entirely without power and an additional 15 that were reporting outages of 95 percent or higher.
Surrounding towns were hit a lot worse as well. Berlin currently has 6,171, or 65 percent, without power, Cheshire has 3,224 residents, or 28 percent, without power and Meriden is reporting 12,223, or 44 percent, are without power.
Brumback said although a shelter was opened at the Calendar House, only four residents sought the shelter and after they left at 1 p.m. and no one else arrived, it was closed at 2 p.m.
That’s doesn’t mean the town didn’t feel the affects of the storm, however.
Sgt. Lowell DePalma said late Sunday afternoon that several roads were still closed, some due to flooding from the heavy rains which exceeded seven inches by the time the storm left the area and others from trees, fallen poles and other road hazards.
Downtown Southington was left pitch black after sunset and CL&P could not provide a timetable for when electricity may be restored. A fallen tree also left one home along Stuart Drive uninhabitable, according to fire and building officials, although residents escaped unharmed.
A 90-foot oak tree collapsed in the Milldale section of town along Lynwood Drive as well, taking with it two utility poles and landing on two vehicles parked in a yard along the street, local residents reported.
“Highway officials and police officers spent the afternoon clearing as much debris as possible and making sure roads were safe, but there are still a number of areas where hazards need to be addressed,” DePalma said.
As emergency crews evaluated roads Sunday evening, problems were still persisting in several locations including along South End Road, East Street, Pratt Street, Defashion Street, Meriden-Waterbury Road near Interstate 691, Carey Street, Woodruff Street, County Road, River Street and Marion Avenue.
All roads have since been cleared with the exception of West Street between Ridge Drive and Maxwell Drive in Plantsville, DePalma said.
Flooding also persists in several areas including along Main Street in downtown Plantsville, Maple Avenue in Plantsville and Curtiss Street, but Brumback said these floods were anticipated and town officials worked with local residents to avoid further issues.
“The water tables are still very high and as waters run from the north, we will continue to monitor flooding,” Brumback said. “We are also watching a few sewer issues that we are monitoring but the Misery Brook watershed, which has been a problem in the past, did not cause any backups into homes. That’s a good sign and hopefully other issues will be addressed without damage to private homes.”
Southington schools will remain closed Monday, School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi Jr. said in a message to parents following a decision made Saturday night, postponing the start of the school year tentatively until Tuesday, Aug. 30.
The decision was made not only for local residents, but in considering the conditions in surrounding towns where teachers are traveling from, Erardi said. The early decision also gave local parents a chance to plan more effectively for the storm.
Brumback said with the storm behind and sunny skies expected, according to the National Weather Service, all town departments will be up and running again Monday. Staff will evaluate damage further and prioritize needs to properly address town needs.
“From our perspective, Southington ended up very fortunate,” Brumback said. “That fortune is a result of hard work and a little luck.”