October storm aftermath informs winter preparation

Though more than a month has passed since a nor’easter blanketed campus on Family Weekend, the snowstorm’s political ramifications have continued throughout the state.

Connecticut Light & Power, the state’s largest electricity utility, was found in a recent state-comissioned report to be dramatically unprepared for an emergency event of the magnitude seen after the Oct. 29 storm, in which 70 percent of their customers lost power. CL&P’s president resigned in the aftermath of the storm, and Connecticut state lawmakers are seizing on the report to push for legislative and regulatory changes. The Dec. 1 report, produced by consulting firm Witt Associates and commissioned by the state, recommends changes for CL&P, but goes relatively easy on United Illuminating, the separate company which serves southern Conn. including New Haven.

As reports surfaced that 430,000 Connecticut residents were still without power four days after the storm public frustration began to mount. The Witt Report, however, claimed that CL&P faced power loss to over 800,000 people, which constitutes 70 percent of its 1.2 million customers. The company, according to the report, was only prepared for a 10 percent loss before the October storm. The Witt Report goes on to fault CL&P for not preparing adequate pre-storm resources, and for announcing a 99 percent power restoration date that it was ultimately unable to meet.

As poor communication marred CL&P’s restoration efforts, state lawmakers began calling for changes. In a Nov. 2 statement, Connecticut House Speaker Chris Donovan and Rep. Vickie Nardello — who represents Cheshire, Bethany and Prospect — announced that they would begin working on legislation to establish “standards of acceptable performance” for the power industry. Failure to meet power restoration standards could result in fines, and they hope to introduce the legislation in February of 2012.

CL&P spokesman Mitch Gross told the News that the company was not commenting on the Witt Report other than a press release sent on December 2. The release, from Northeastern Utilities, the parent company of CL&P, said that the company is “quickly working to incorporate [the Witt Report’s] feedback” into their emergency plans. The company also highlighted the Witt Report’s acknowledgement of “the millions of actions that were performed well” during the recovery from the storm.

In contrast, United Illuminating spokesman Michael West, said his company was “comfortable with the speed and quality with which we restored power” in the October storms.

United Illuminating will be investing 10 to 15 million dollars over the next three years in order to communicate improved information to customers as quickly as possible, West told the News.

In New Haven, City Hall spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton ’04 said the city will seek to improve its preparedness for future weather emergencies in light of lessons from this winter’s storms.

“I think what we learned right after those storms was the importance of communication and coordination early on,” Benton said.

Only 1,400 households lost power in New Haven during the October storms, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said at the time. An internal City Hall meeting is scheduled to prepare for this winter.

New Haven saw five inches of snow in the October storm.

Comments

  • newsjar

    Mother Nature is bigger than we are. My lasting memory will be of the Saturday night concert in Woolsey as the snow fell outside. The storm was a misery, but that memory is anything but.