(TNS) — Two days after a heavy storm ripped through Connecticut, an estimated 21,000 customers remained without power Wednesday morning and both residents and many local officials were growing increasingly frustrated with the response from Eversource.
“I think the storm did take them by surprise,” said Lebanon First Selectwoman Betsy Petrie. “That’s just not acceptable,” said Petrie, who had about 1,100 homes in her town without power late Tuesday afternoon. By 6 a.m. Wednesday, the number of outages was down to 763, 35 percent of the town; Lebanon schools are among a handful that remained closed Wednesday.
In Hebron, where about 25 percent of the town remained without electricity Tuesday night, Town Manager Andrew J. Tierney said residents “can’t understand why it’s taking so long to restore power.” By 6 a.m. Wednesday, 175 Hebron customers, or 4 percent of the town, lacked electricity, according to Eversource.
Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon, said communication during the storm had been poor. “I can take bad news, but not no news,” said Congdon, who said 73 percent of his community’s residents remained without electricity Tuesday, although that number appeared to be dropping by Tuesday night. He said his efforts to contact Eversource were in vain Monday, and he saw few signs of progress on the damage.
A spokesman for Connecticut’s largest utility insisted Eversource is working around the clock to restore power to customers, bringing in more than 200 additional emergency crews from states as far away as Alabama and Ohio. Eversource officials said more than 229,000 customers had power restored by Tuesday afternoon.
“We were well prepared for this storm, with our crews prepositioned,” said Mitch Gross, Eversource spokesman. He said the tropical-force rains and winds inflicted “widespread damage,” particularly to sections of eastern Connecticut.
The storm that struck late Sunday and during the day Monday produced gusts of up to 65 miles per hour and more than 5 inches of rain in different parts of the state. Gross said the result was “hundreds of damaged utility polls” and fallen trees that took down power lines, blocked roads and smashed houses and cars.
Gross said the “vast majority of customers” in central and western Connecticut would have power back by Wednesday evening, and that Eversource officials expected to have nearly all eastern Connecticut customers reconnected to the power grid by noon Thursday.
Gross said that all the Eversource crews who went to Florida after Hurricane Irma in September have returned to Connecticut, and that no Eversource crews were dispatched to Texas or Puerto Rico. He acknowledged that there were “some technical issues” Monday with the company’s complaint and response system, but said those glitches have been fixed. As for long waits to talk to a live person at Eversource, Gross said there were vast numbers of customers who were attempting to use the phone system and that the volume of calls may result in waits for people trying to get through.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy defended the utility company’s response, but said the final judgment would have to wait until “everyone’s lights are back on.”
“I do think that we are just about 24 hours from the end of 30 to 40 mph gusts across our state. You can’t put a bucket [truck] up in that kind of wind. I think we’re not used to storms that last that long and therefore delay response that long. I think in another day to a couple of days we’ll have a better view of what the response was,” Malloy said. But he added that he doesn’t blame the utilities for refusing to put workers up in repair lifts and buckets in high winds.
The explanations for the delays were of little comfort to residents without power Tuesday.
Huddled beneath an electric blanket, Theresa Lee and her 9-year-old daughter, Leena Egbert, took refuge in the cafeteria of Ledyard Middle School Tuesday morning. The town was enduring its second day without power. m Sunday’s storm.
But they were not going to let that hinder their Halloween spirit. Leena planned to take to the streets of nearby Mystic clad in a Cleopatra costume Tuesday night, Lee said.
In Ledyard, where Lee and her daughter live, more than 2,000 homes , or roughly 31 percent of customers, were still without power Tuesday night.
In Glastonbury, dozens of trees had fallen over roads and live wires, causing officials to cancel school Monday. "It made it impossible for buses to get around town," Superintendent Alan B. Bookman said Tuesday morning. "There were just too many issues."
“We are hopeful the wires will be taken up and we will open Wednesday,” Bookman said. “They [Eversource eworkers] obviously have their hands full. … It’s New England. You just deal with it."
Ledyard Mayor Fred Allyn took to Facebook Monday to express his frustration with Eversource, saying the company had not been to town to complete a damage assessment, but a few hours later he posted again that Eversource would be in town Tuesday.
Mohegan Sun offered a free trick-or-treating event Tuesday night.
There was plenty of frustration in Hebron over the extended power outage.
“[Residents] don’t understand why we have the highest percentage of outages in the area but yet they don’t see [Eversource] crews out,” Tierney said.
In Colchester, several neighborhoods were still without power Tuesday morning, but traffic lights on Route 85 south of Route 16 were working again.
Courant staff writers Sandra Gomez-Aceves, Peter Marteka, Christine Dempsey and Russell Blair contributed to this story.
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