Monday, November 7, 2011

Thousands in Conn. Enter 2nd Week Without Power

Tens of thousands of Connecticut residents awoke Monday as part of an unenviable fraternity: people entering their second week without power after an early-season storm that hammered the Northeast with wet, heavy snow.

The power failures, the legacy of the storm Oct. 29 and 30, were largely an unpleasant memory by Sunday night for most of the 3 million who lost power at the height of the storm. But in Connecticut, about 50,000 homes and businesses remained without electricity by Monday morning, nine days after the storm. In Massachusetts, 100 customers remained without power, and New Jersey utilities said everyone was back on line.

Connecticut Light & Power, the state's largest utility, announced Sunday night that it would miss its goal of restoring power to 99 percent of its 1.2 million customers by midnight. Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey apologized, saying that power might not be restored to everyone until Wednesday. About 6,000 of the outages were new and unrelated to the snowstorm, he said.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has called the delays unacceptable and said the state is keeping its legal options open in case there are grounds for recourse in the courts once the circumstances are examined.

He has launched an independent probe of the utility's response to the storm outages amid numerous customer complaints, including from South Windsor fire officials, who accuse CL&P of jeopardizing safety by failing to ensure emergency trucks had access to local roads.

"We much as we want to support and be supportive of CL&P, it's clear that for the last several days, they have failed to meet their own imposed goals on a day by day basis," Malloy said Sunday.

Attorney General George Jepsen is participating in the probe to ensure that the state, in Malloy's words, "preserves its legal options on behalf of itself and on behalf of Connecticut utility customers."

Jepsen cautioned Sunday that it was too early to know whether grounds might exist for any court action. U.S. Sens. Joe Lieberman and Richard Blumenthal also put out calls for thorough reviews of CL&P's preparedness before the storm and its response afterward, with Blumenthal describing the situation as a "historic breakdown of power and public trust."

Some people who were slogging through their eighth day Sunday without power said they would be pleasantly surprised to see their power restored Sunday night or early Monday, but they weren't optimistic.

"We're disappointed, discouraged, tired, but I don't know what else you can really say, you know," said Chet Matczak of Simsbury, an especially hard-hit suburb. "A lot of this is just the luck of the draw."

In Somers, a northern Connecticut town on the Massachusetts border, First Selectman Lisa Pellegrini said a team of highly supervised crews of minimum-security inmates from nearby state prisons had been dispatched to clear town property of trees, limbs and other debris so power restoration could move more quickly.

She said Butler, the utility president, called her personally on Saturday to apologize — which she appreciated, but which did not give her confidence that they would have most of their power restored by Sunday night.

"(Butler) asked me how I was doing, and I said, 'Pretty lousy, but I think you're having a worse day than I am,'" Pellegrini said.


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