One year ago, Operation Hope in Fairfield was stocking its food pantry when Superstorm Sandy ripped through and devastated the area with flood waters and power outages.
“Because we lost power, we had to get rid of all of our refrigerated and frozen food, and we had been gearing up for the Thanksgiving holidays,” said Carla Miklos, Executive Director of Operation Hope.
Operation Hope was just one of the hundreds of thousands of places that lost power during the storm. Many people were without electricity for days, and power companies like Connecticut Light & Power were scrambling to restore their systems. Contractors from all over the country were brought in to help.
Since then, CL&P has been trimming back trees to help prevent outages.
“We've looked at our processes in trying to understand how do we get the scope of the situation spelled out quickly, get the magnitude, set expectations for customers how long it will take,” said Peter Clarke, Senior Vice President of Emergency Preparedness for Northeast Utilities.
CL&P has already announced some new technology that helps the company pinpoint the problem areas, so those problems can be fixed more efficiently.
“We can put in if there's an oil spill and it will get environmental out there a lot quicker than before,” said CL&P engineer Marissa Flynn, while demonstrating the new computer system.
United Illuminating was challenged by the shear amount of damage. The company had to rebuild its system and deal with flooded substations in Bridgeport. It's now making changes to be better prepared for a future problem.
“Some of [the changes] include fortifying our substations for flood mitigation efforts, as well as some of the communication tools we have available for the public and our municipal partners,” said Michael West, Director of Corporate Communications for UI.
Both utilities said their customers are top priority, and that they get as frustrated by power outages as their customers do. But it takes time to restore power, especially on such a large scale.
Food pantries like Operation Hope and other shelters are hoping to be a top priority in restoration the next time around.
“Surely the hospitals come first and first responders, but we're pretty much right after that, so it's a challenge,” said Miklos.
The power companies said they work together with municipalities to determine those priority spots for current and future events.