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Sunday Storm Update: 777,000 Customers Without Power, Prospect Woman Killed

by Staff Report | Aug 28, 2011 8:31am
(2) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Town News

Douglas Healey photo

Fairfield fireighters inspect a collapsed garage Sunday on Fairfield Beach Road after high tide and Hurricane Irene.

(Updated 8:50 p.m.) While the death toll from Tropical Storm Irene remains at one, at least three people have gone missing, more than half the state is without power, and at least three homes were destroyed, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Sunday evening.

—Check out more storm photos from Douglas Healey here

Two of the men Malloy mentioned were in a canoe that flipped in the Forestville section of Bristol and National Guard troops are searching for at least one of them, according to WFSB. Malloy said there’s another report of someone traveling a river in a tube.

“We have three citizens who are missing who went out in water conditions they should have never gone out in. I pray and hope their lives have not been lost, but it’s the kind of examples of behaviors we have to urge our citizens not to be engaged in,“ Malloy said. There’s no reason to be out in the water in a canoe or a tube or anything else.“

More than 777,000 customers are without power in the state and it could take up to a week to restore power to some customers. 

Connecticut Light and Power crews will be responding to priority calls and cutting the power to downed lines to make areas safe, Jeff Butler, CL&P president and chief operating officer said Sunday in a statement. Restoring power to critical customers such as hospitals, police and fire departments will be a top priority.

“The damage from this storm was unprecedented and the restoration process may take a week or longer in some areas,” Butler said. “We ask for and appreciate the understanding and patience of our customers during this difficult process.”

Power lines have come down all over the state and 1,100 guardsmen have been deployed.

But most state office buildings have power so state employees will be expected to report to work Monday at 10 a.m.

And travel conditions will likely be difficult for some parts of the state particularly hard hit by the storm.

Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman toured East Haven, West Haven, Branford, and parts of New Haven Sunday.

Rep. Stephen Dargan, D-West Haven, said his community was hit hard from the storm and it wasn’t so much the winds as it was the storm surge, which came at high tide.

He said there’s water all around the streets and homes. He estimated the damage was going to be in the millions.

In East Haven three houses were destroyed and pulled out to sea, Malloy said. Other houses on beach received structural damage, such as porches tearing away from homes. He said he was told one or two entire fronts of home were torn off, leaving them looking like dollhouses.

And some communities like Bridgeport and New Canaan have issued curfews for their residents.

Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi said his agency has licensed an additional 2,000 insurance adjusters bringing the total in the state up to 5,000.

He urged residents to photograph and document the damage to their homes and make repairs necessary to keep themselves safe.

He said there are many down trees damaging cars and home, and those are generally covered by a homeowners insurance policy. Damage to a lawn from downed trees is typically not covered.

CT Transit will be back on schedule Monday. New Haven will begin normal operations at 7 a.m. Schedules for CT Transit buses in Stamford, Hartford, and Waterbury will resume service at their normal times on Monday.

Malloy said there’s no official word from New York state, but his experts are telling him the Tappan Zee bridge will likely to be closed for the next few days making travel for people in the southwestern portion of the state difficult.

State parks, beaches, and campgrounds will also be closed at least through Monday so the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection can assess the damage.

Malloy warned at a noon press conference that gusts of up to 60 mph are a possibility this afternoon as another storm from the west meets Irene as she heads north.

A truck ban was lifted as of 10:45 a.m. and the Wilbur Cross and Merritt Parkway was reopened, “but if you’re foolish enough to go on there don’t blame me for the delays you’re going to experience,” Malloy said.

Douglas Healey photo Malloy plans to travel to East Haven, West Haven, and a few other towns to get a first hand look at some of the damage. He said there’s been extensive damage to the beachfront accesses there. In other parts of the state there has been river flooding as opposed to coastal flooding and people have become isolated.

Malloy said the Prospect woman died when downed electrical lines fell on his home. Two firefighters were injured and taken to the hospital after they received electrical shocks when they tried to save the woman.

Farm animals in New Hartford drowned Malloy said after that portion of the state received more than 8 inches of rain.

“The western part of the state got the bulk of the water,” Malloy said. “That’s where we saw 8.3 inches of rain so if you think about the map, rivers and streams in those areas are experiencing a lot of difficulty.”

In Bridgeport, United Illuminating officials have taken the Congress Street substation offline due to flooding and safety issues. This substation services most of the downtown area of Bridgeport and some areas to the north and west of the Route 8 connector and nearby East Side.

Malloy said the flooding of that substation has caused power outages to most of Bridgeport and officials are working to get rid of the water and get that substation back online.

Other utilities are experiencing problems too. AT&T report to Malloy that it has 2,000 poles down and several cellphone towers are not working. Malloy encouraged residents to use text messaging to get in touch with people throughout the afternoon because it uses less data than a voice call.

“We have to deploy the assets we have,” Malloy said.

With 900 Connecticut National Guard troops ready to respond after the storm passes, Malloy tried to offer some perspective.

“This storm has really done a lot of damage from North Carolina through Massachusetts … So this is a very large portion of the United States. There’s nothing small about this storm,“ Malloy said.

He said at this point in the storm it’s entirely “too early to know the scope of the problem, other than pure numbers.”

He said he’s also aware of damage to MetroNorth rail lines particularly in New Canaan. He said trees brought down the electrical power lines over the train lines there. Service to MetroNorth was suspended Saturday evening and it’s too soon to tell when it will come back online.

He said they have not gotten official damage reports yet from MetroNorth.

CTNewsJunkie is putting together a reader-contributed photo album. Email us your Hurricane Irene photos along with your name, address, phone number, and the location where your image was captured. The photographer who sends us the best photo (as judged by our esteemed panel of ctnewsjunkie contributors who still have power) gets a $50 gift certificate and a spectacular CTNewsJunkie coffee mug! Second and third prize get mugs as well! Send your .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) — high resolution is best — but remember, email can only hold one or two high-res images.

Here’s the latest map of Irene’s progress from the NOAA.

NOAA map

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(2) Comments

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | August 28, 2011  1:49pm

GoatBoyPHD

A yawner in the North West Hills. If it wasn’t for some satellite digi-snow and audio crackle I would think it was a typical greyday storm.

posted by: NOW What? | August 28, 2011  3:38pm

GoatBoyPHD, consider yourself VERY lucky. If this very same storm had occurred just a little earlier in the season all of Connecticut - including the northwest hills - would’ve been wiped out in a category 1 (or worse) hurricane. Roughly 3/4 or the state has been without power, and about half of them may be without it for about a week.

New York City can withstand a tropical storm (as opposed to a full-blown hurricane) pretty well due to its infrastructure design; but due to its overabundance of trees, overhead power lines and inadequate seawalls along its rivers Connecticut can NOT. Also, because of the predominance of wood-framed houses with non-“hip” style roofs that are not secured to their frames with hurricane straps, in a cat. 2 or higher hurricane you’d be seeing thousands of homes with roofs blown off - and once the roof blows the rest of the wooden structure goes regardless of rainfall.

Expect to see more such storms (and worse) in the coming years and decades around here, compliments of global warming. And with warming and more such storms comes more tornados.