More than 72,000 customers of United Illuminating remain in the dark days after Superstorm Sandy came through Connecticut and they could remain without power for the weekend.
UI expects complete service restoration to 95 percent of its customers before 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 5.
"About 16,000 will probably not have power at that point," James Torgerson, chief executive officer of UIL Holdings, said during a news conference on Thursday morning. "We're going to do our best to do better, but that's our best estimate at the time."
Torgerson said there are more than 500 linemen in the field and nearly 400 tree and service personnel.
Town by town power restoration estimates will be available to municipalities on Friday, according to Jim Torgerson of United Illuminating.
UI officials said they hoped to restore 20,000 to 25,000 customers on Thursday and they were succesful. The outage number has gone down from almost 100,000 customers on Thursday morning.
But that is little consolation for the many who still have no power.
In Fairfield, almost 43 percent of town is in the dark.
"After our top 10 locations such as the waste treatment facility, Police and Fire Headquarters, the 911 Center and the Ludlowe Shelter, UI sets the priorities for all other restorations. They do not take input or listen to the town, but set priorities based on restoring the maximum number of outages per repair," First Selectman Michael Tetreau said in a statement.
Torgerson said they will have about 1,050 personnel working 16-hour days, mostly during daylight hours.
“We are proceeding full force to restore power to our customers as quickly and safely as possible,” Torgerson said in a news release. “Our damage assessment, safety inspection and road clearing crews have been working around the clock to pave the way for line and service crews to restore power. Restoration crews already have restored electric service to approximately 92,340 customers who lost power during the storm. While damage assessment will continue, we are confident that we have gathered enough information to effectively allocate our resources where they are needed most to restore power.”
Power was out for more than half of Bridgeport, the largest city in the state, on Thursday. On Friday, power remains out for about 23 percent.
“To all of those residents who are without power, I share your frustration. The residents of Bridgeport deserve more attention from our utility provider,” Mayor Bill Finch said in one release he issued after the storm.
Torgerson was asked about resources dedicated to Bridgeport and the mayor's allegation that the company is allocating more resources to wealthier communities.
"We restored 13,000 customers in Bridgeport since 6 o'clock last night," Torgerson said. "They had two priority schools we got online about 8:30 last night so they could have school today. I think we have done a very good job."
Torgerson said Bridgeport has gotten resources like the other towns in the UI customer area.
"We show no prejudice for any town," he said.
“We fully understand that the loss of electricity seriously disrupts people’s lives, and we have tapped into every resource at our disposal to restore electric service to all of our customers safely and as quickly as possible,” Anthony Vallillo, UI president and chief operating officer, said. “We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding as we recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, one of the most powerful storms to ever hit our region.”
UI officials on Thursday said less than 200 poles were damaged in the storm.
To report a downed power line, an electrical power outage, or natural gas odor, call your utility right away with the location and any specifics. The toll-free numbers are:
- The United Illuminating Company: 800-7-CALL-UI (1-800-722-5584)
- Southern Connecticut Gas Company: 800-513-8898
- Connecticut Natural Gas Corporation: 866-924-5325
- Berkshire Gas Company: 800-292-5012