OP-ED | Still Stuck in the Dark
At first it seemed like an adventure. We lit our candles and huddled with the cats in bed, living by the light of our dying phones. But as the hours turned to days, the power never came back. The house got colder and colder. We retreated to the basement, where it was a balmy 59 degrees instead of the 50 it was upstairs. I cleared brush in the yard. We boiled water on the grill, and showered in the shelter at the high school nearby. We’ve waited in line for gas, and marveled at Big Y selling milk. Milk! Every time we come home, I look at the street lights, hoping. Still nothing. Six days have passed.
We go to work to get warm, and to charge up our phones. Nights are frigid, mornings unbearable. We worry about candles. We worry about the money we’re spending on emergency supplies and hot food. We refresh the CL&P outage list relentlessly, hoping and hoping that we’ll be next. Tomorrow, we think every night, huddled together in a cold bed. Tomorrow it’ll come back. So far it hasn’t.
For days we drove through a darkened, powerless town, without even traffic lights. When finally we could drive out to Hazard Ave. and see a red light staring down at us it felt like a kind of victory. Streets near ours lit up, but our row of houses remained dark. We have no explanation of why. I’ve only seen two power crews, and they were busy driving somewhere else. Six days today.
I’m cold and tired. Staying warm and living in a constant state of crisis have absolutely drained me. People in Massachusetts, where I work, probably are wondering what’s wrong with me when I come in grumpy and disheveled every day. And why not? Their power has largely been on for days. The border between Massachusetts and Connecticut, between the Western Mass. Electric Company and CL&P, has never felt more real than this week.
People are angry and frustrated. I know I am. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if this hadn’t happened to the other half of the state only a few months ago during Hurricane Irene, but it did. The excuses are wearing thin. We get no good information from CL&P. I’m relying on Enfield Mayor Scott Kaupin’s Facebook page these days for news. Scott’s been doing a great job relaying information to the people of the town, but there’s only so much he can do. The power company has a detailed plan I’m sure, but they’re not bothering to tell anyone, even the mayor, what it is.
Meanwhile the face of CL&P, COO Jeff Butler, continues to alienate everyone at press conferences, Gov. Malloy gets progressively snappish and grumpy, and we’re told only that they plan on having 99 percent of power back for everyone by Sunday night. I’m having a hard time believing it.
The political fallout and finger pointing has already begun. There’s talk of fining CL&P if they don’t meet their Sunday target. There are so many questions. Why weren’t they better prepared? Why hasn’t basic maintenance, like tree trimming, been done? Is the lackluster response from other states because CL&P failed to pay out-of-state crews for their help during Irene? Why does the company have 245 fewer linemen now than they did a few years ago? Why are our electric rates so high if this is the level of service we receive? Why do their executives make so much money? What is CL&P (and parent Northeast Utilities) anyway? Are they a state utility, a private company, a lazy monopoly, or something else? To whom are they accountable, if anyone?
But the biggest question remains: when is my power coming back on? I’m on Glendale Road in Enfield. Please. It’s been six cold, dark days. We’re cold and tired. I’m hoping maybe we’re next. Maybe someone knows if we are, somewhere; though if they do they aren’t saying.
Susan Bigelow is the former owner of CTLocalPolitics and an author. She lives in Enfield with her wife and cats.