As Eversource responds to numerous and widespread small power outages across the state — an effort the company says will be a complicated and could take several days — Norwich Public Utilities is hopeful it will be able to restore power to most of its much smaller service area after winds die down this afternoon.
At 9 a.m., Eversource reported 102,000 customers without power across the state. That’s about 8 percent of its customers across a service territory of 149 towns and 4,400 square miles.
With wind damage widespread across the state, towns with the highest proportion of customers without power were largely the smaller, wooded towns in Litchfield, Tolland and Windham counties.
Morris had 88 percent of its customers without power around 9 a.m., and Lebanon and Hampton had around 70 percent of their customers without power. Heavily wooded East Haddam had over 3,000 customers without power, while West Hartford with nearly six times as many customers had 3,750 – the most in the state at the time.
By about 9:40 a.m., Eversource crews had reduced the number of customers without power to about 94,000 – but with another round of heavy winds expected in the afternoon, and extreme cold expected overnight, more people are expected to lose power.
“There’s storm damage pretty much everywhere we serve,” Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross said. “There are dozens and dozens of blocked road, multiple instances of trees taking down lines.”
The outages are widespread, and largely smaller, localized outages impacting a few customers each. Those take longer to restore because each has to be dealt with individually, Gross said.
Eversource declared the storm a “Level 4” event, meaning anywhere from 125,000 to 380,000 customers are expected to lose power, and restoration could take from two to six days.
Gross said there are “hundreds and hundreds” of line crews working across the state to restore power, and they’ll do everything they can to restore power as quickly as possible, Gross said. Crews are used to working in harsh conditions, like the 16 degree temperatures expected overnight, and they’ll continue to work as long as it’s safe, he said.
“This restoration work is going to take some time,” Gross said. “It won’t be a quick fix, but we have the people and resources to get it done as quickly as we can.”
At about 8 a.m., Norwich Public Utilities had eight outages impacting about 1,500 customers out of the 40,000 people served in Norwich – about 30 square miles. By 10 a.m., about 1,000 of those customers had been restored, NPU spokesman Chris Riley said.
Two major outages remained, on Plain Hill Road and Lillibridge Road, which may take up to 10 hours to restore. One involved multiple downed utility poles that likely need to be replaced. Even on a sunny day, it’s a complicated operation that involves untangling a considerable amount of wire, and the utility isn’t positive it will be able to get that done before the second round of high winds starts this afternoon, Riley said.
Riley said the goal is to get as many people’s power restored as possible before the second round of wind makes it unsafe to work and likely causes more outages. Line crews can’t safely operate bucket trucks in winds above 35 miles per hour.
Riley said they’re hopeful the wind will die down quickly, and that they’ll be able to get most people’s power restored this afternoon. The concern then becomes people traveling on icy roads, and potentially crashing into utility poles.
“We’re hopeful that people will be careful when they need to be out, and if you don’t need to be out, you probably shouldn’t,” he said.
Gross and Riley both said that everyone who encounters a downed power line should assume it’s live, stay as far away from it as possible, and call 9-1-1 to let emergency responders and electrical workers take care of it.
“A downed wire is a potentially lethal hazard, we cannot emphasize that strongly enough,” Riley said. “If you see a wire that has come down, always assume it’s energized, and it’s a lethal hazard. Call 9-1-1 immediately and stay as far away from it as you can.”
At about 10 a.m., Jay Mariano, manager of Noank Shipyard, said that the water had receded somewhat, but that the Portside shop and other buildings in the marina had been flooded.
“Probably about six inches to a foot. Same this with this,” he said, gesturing toward a low slung building along the pier. “This is our spar shop here, and Costello’s over there, that was all flooded.”
He said the extra-high water was due to a combination of factors.
“We knew there’s gonna be a storm surge but there hasn’t been anything this bad since probably the last time a hurricane came through,” Mariano said. “The high tide was 8:30 this morning, so it peaked then, and there was a heavy east wind that pushed it this way, and heavy rain and high tide.”
He said he’d planned to close early today, but the removal of the storm debris had to come first.
“We’ve got all hands on deck right now trying to clean everything up. But it was unfortunate – the last day before we go on our holiday break. We’re off this week,” he said. “ I was hoping to cut the guys out a little early, but now we have to spend all day cleaning up.”
Mariano said he’d planned a Christmas party for the staff that was going to be held in the Portside shop, but now he wasn’t sure.
“We’ll probably still do it but just gonna be a little bit different,” he said.
Luckily all the boats that needed to be hauled out were already on land in the marina before the storm hit, he said.
“There is some dock damage, there’s some cleanup of all the seaweed and debris and stuff like that. I can see we’re gonna be squeegeeing and shop-vac’ing all the shops and everything,” he said. “But hopefully we’ll be able to get it sorted out before the end of the day especially with the freeze coming tomorrow.”