Though you wouldn’t know it from being at Yale, large swaths of Connecticut are still reeling from this weekend’s snowstorm.
By Thursday morning, the number of customers was predicted to fall to around 430,000, the Hartford Courant reported, down from over 800,000 without power in the immediate aftermath of the storm.
Connecticut Light & Power said restoration efforts won’t be completed in many towns until Sunday evening. United Illuminating, which provides power for New Haven, reported only 10 remaining outages Thursday morning. But many residents covered by CL&P, including some in nearby Woodbrige, Hamden and Seymour, will likely have been without power for over a week before their lights flicker back on. Out of 148 towns listed on CL&P’s web site, only 28 will have power restored to 99 percent of before Friday.
And in the wake of CL&P’s sluggish response to Hurricane Irene earlier this year, the long delays have residents and legislators up in arms. House Speaker Chris Donovan and Rep. Vickie Nardello are working on legislation that would establish new “benchmarks” for power restoration and impose penalties on companies that fail to meet these standards, the Courant reported. Nardello herself is without power, and she hopes to model the legislation after a Massachusetts law that was passed in 2009. Under that law, power companies without detailed emergency plans can be fined substantially.
“Let’s face it, in this day and age, we know when the storms are coming at least 24 hours in advance and sometimes more than that,” Donovan told the Courant. “So you want to make sure the utility has made all of the efforts to do the preparation before the storm comes.”
While sunny skies and balmy weather made Hurricane Irene feel like a distant memory on Monday, the city was still struggling to clear fallen trees from dozens of streets and restore power to thousands of residents who have been in the dark since the storm hit early Sunday.
At a press conference Monday afternoon held near a massive downed tree blocking State Street at Edwards Street in East Rock, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. thanked residents for their patience as crews continue a cleanup effort that could last all week. About 17,000 homes and traffic signals at 55 traffic intersections in New Haven remain without power, United Illuminating vice president John Prete said at the press conference, adding that he could not predict when power would return to the entire city.
“I know you’re frustrated — we’re doing everything we physically can to get your power back as quickly as possible,” Prete said. By midnight Monday night, the company hopes to be able to provide residents with estimated restoration times, he said.
Zero injuries and minimal property damage made New Haven a relatively fortunate victim of the storm, which whipped up devastating winds and waves that reduced several homes in East Haven to rubble and caused the death of at least two Connecticut residents.
Statewide, power outages have decreased from about 775,000 at the storm’s peak to about 680,000 Monday evening. After a shutdown Saturday night, Metro-North rail service resumed on a limited basis Monday evening. According to the state department of transportation website, full service to New York is expected to be restored Tuesday morning with the exception of the New Canaan, Waterbury and Danbury branch lines.
New Haven’s cleanup operations have already cost the city $500,000 in overtime, DeStefano said, and will likely end up costing over $1 million, most of which he expects to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Crews from Kansas City, North Carolina, Indiana and Canada are assisting United Illuminating crews in restoring power to homes in the Greater New Haven area, Prete said. A total of 70 tree crews and 90 power line crews are currently working, he said.
The city’s top priority is clearing tree debris from the roads, DeStefano said, adding that eight streets were blocked and dozens more were obstructed by fallen trees Monday afternoon. 221 city workers in 47 crews are working nearly 24 hours a day and will continue working nearly the entire week, he said.
In a stark contrast to the city’s much-criticized response to January’s crippling snowstorms, aldermen praised the DeStefano administration’s efforts in preparing for and cleaning up after Irene.
Perhaps the most vocal critic of the city’s snow response efforts, Ward 9 Alderman Matt Smith ’98 said the city has done a much better job during Irene of keeping both aldermen and their constituents informed about the storm. Since Sunday at 9 a.m., DeStefano has conducted several conference calls with aldermen and state legislators, Ward 7 Alderwoman Frances “Bitsie” Clark said, that helped keep officials “in the loop.”
“The communication has been exceptional,” Smith said, adding that he plans on going door to door to distribute flyers updating Ward 9 residents about the city’s progress, given that an email would not reach the majority of his East Rock constituents who remain without power.
The city’s response also won the applause of State Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-New Haven), who spoke after DeStefano at the press conference against the backdrop of a crew beginning to remove the downed tree on State Street.
“All hands are on deck,” said Looney, who is himself without power. “We’ll get through this together.”
There have been no incidents of looting reported during the storm, New Haven Police Department Chief Frank Limon said. Still, 100 police officers will be on duty throughout the night Monday, focusing on parts of the city with more severe power outages.
We are hearing that many off-campus students are without power this morning.
A resident of the Elmhurst told us that buildings along Elm Street, including the Elmhurst and the heavyweight crew house, lost power at around 5:30 a.m. and are still in the dark as of 11:12 a.m.
Meanwhile, residents of Howe Street are also reporting that they lost power. As of 11:23 a.m. lights are out in some houses on that street, but street lights are on and Mamoun’s has power and is open for business.
That said, students who live at Edgewood Avenue and Park Street, 1012 Chapel Street and the Cambridge Oxford Apartments on High Street have all reported having power.
We’ve heard that students in the Pi Phi house on Crown Street still have power too. But two residents of different houses on Lynwood has said that their power has been out since this morning. Kat Lau ’13 told our reporter Emily Foxhall that a fallen tree appears to be pulling down the power lines.
Saturday is supposed to dawn sunny and clear, but it may be too late: Stormwater flooding has been reported all over campus, from the Timothy Dwight basement and dining hall to the athletic fields.
TD master Jeffrey Brenzel e-mailed students this morning to announce that water has flooded the college’s basement, library and dining hall — even its master’s house. Most of the basement is covered in a shallow layer of water. The dining hall will be closed until further notice while facilities staff clean up and repair the damage.
“We’ve got the 100 year flood now taking place,” Brenzel said in hie e-mail. “Water is coming in from the saturated lake surrounding us, and in some areas (dining hall), the New Haven storm drains are backing up, bringing with it more than just water.”
Though TD is the only college so far to report extensive flooding, the Ezra Stiles section of Commons is also closed due to encroaching storm water. And Branford Independence Day, Branford’s annual field day, has been pushed from Friday to Oct. 9 because of the weather, Branford administrative assistant Alicia Heaney announced to students in an e-mail.
Further from campus, the athletics fields are closed to all practicing today, an Athletics Department administrator announced in an e-mail.
The rest of New Haven is no less vulnerable.
Rain-induced sinkholes are plaguing Union Avenue by Union Station, City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga wrote in a statement. The street will remain closed as the city and state strive to repair the damage.
Although many city roads have been reopened after dealing with flooding earlier in the day, Mayorga wrote that Union Avenue, along with others throughout the city, are closed. Trains are delayed.
Mayorga wrote early this afternoon power should be restored to Edgewood, which are experiencing power outages, at about 2 p.m.
The transformation of Old Campus from grassy quad to rocking concert venue is well underway, as one of the Spring Fling headliners, the indie rock band The Decemberists, will take the stage precisely 24 hours from now. In terms of weather, tomorrow will be a scorcher: The meteorologists at WTNH say that temperatures could near 90 degrees and set an all-time record.
With term papers, impending exams and the generally depressing onslaught of schoolwork that seems to have consumed most of campus this week, the only thing keeping us going at this point is the hope of basking in the sunny weather and 80-degree temperatures that will roll into the Elm City this weekend, as we noted yesterday.
Well, the folks at WTNH have an updated forecast: Sunday’s high temperature is now projected at no less than 90 degrees. Yes, really. (No wonder R.K. Pachauri got that Nobel Prize.)
According to The Weather Channel, that would shatter the previous record temperature for April 26 in New Haven, 78 degrees, which was set in 1960. Saturday’s projected high temperature — 82 degrees, according to WTNH — would tie the all-time record, which was also set in 1960.