Is Connecticut Prepared for a Hurricane?

Climate change, aging infrastructure and the state's extensive tree cover could spell disaster if Connecticut is hit with a major storm.

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It's been 36 years since a hurricane has made landfall in Connecticut, and the state is more vulnerable than ever before.

“In general every 15-20 years climatology says that we would see a hurricane and it’s been over 35 years since we have seen a Category 1 hurricane," Nelson Vaz, warning coordination meteorologist for NWS, explained.

We have seen our fair share of strong tropical storm systems with Isaias just last year, Sandy in 2012 and Irene in 2011.

"It’s kind of like shooting the dice isn’t it, especially with climate change and the frequency of the storms so it’s one of those…we’re due," John Shappy of Milford said.

Those storms resulted in hundreds of thousands of power outages and in fact were all in the top five for peak outages, according to Eversource.

One of the reasons why Connecticut is so vulnerable to extended power outages is because of our extensive tree cover.

“We have one of the most heavily wooded states in the country and we have to continually point to the trees which we all love and we understand but they can cause problems at times," Eversource spokesperson Mitch Gross said.

Tropical Storm Isaias took down 1% of the trees throughout the state. A stronger storm would be far worse.

PHOTOS: Tropical Storm Isaias Rips Across Connecticut

"You’re talking about sustained winds 74 mph with higher gusts, in terms of trees down maybe 20% of trees down in Connecticut, and you could be looking at power outages one to two weeks or even longer," Vaz said.

This means that the amount of damage could increase by 20 times what we saw from Tropical Storm Isaias.

According to a report from the Connecticut Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (DEMHS) it's estimated that a Category 2 hurricane could take down 40% of the trees and result in power outages for a month. A Category 3 Hurricane could take down 50% of trees and result in power outages for months.

“If you were to lose power for a month would that be an inconvenience? Huh you’re talking disaster for a month," Bid Gould from Clinton said.

A rare storm of this magnitude is not out of the question for Connecticut and the changes of this increase as a result of a warming climate.

“With the infrastructure, we have today the amount of infrastructure we have next to forested areas in Connecticut the impacts could be severe and long-lasting," Vaz said.

The Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority oversees the utility companies and said the system is not built to withstand a Category 1 hurricane without outages, and likely never will be.

"I’m not sure anyone around the country would want to design a system that could withstand that degree of a storm without experiencing outages you would price yourself out of being able to afford an essential service," Marissa Gillett, PURA chairman said.

The state's aging infrastructure needs a significant overhaul to be ready for the next major storm.

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