What to Know
- Over 185,000 Connecticut customers remain without electricity on Saturday. Gov. Ned Lamont has declared a state of emergency and received a presidential emergency declaration for Conn.
- Eversource estimates it will have power substantially restored to most customers by late Tuesday night, a week after Tropical Storm Isaias hit the state. It said it will provide customers with restoration timelines this weekend.
- The National Weather Service confirmed Friday an EF-1 tornado with winds of 105 mph hit Westport during Tropical Storm Isaias on Wednesday.
Hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents remain without power nearly four days after Tropical Storm Isaias, which struck on Tuesday killing two people and leaving widespread damage across the state and entire towns in the dark.
The outages continue into a fourth full day as many try to work from home amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and as the forecast calls for the start of a heatwave on Sunday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency notified the state Friday that President Donald Trump approved a federal emergency declaration for Connecticut. The declaration will allow for the state, Mashantucket Pequot Indian Tribe, the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations for federal funding support.
Eversource estimates it will have power restored to the "vast majority" of customers by late Tuesday night, a full week after Tropical Storm Isaias hit the state. The company says they will have restoration "substantially complete," which means fewer than 1 percent of customers will be without power.
On Friday, the National Weather Service confirmed an EF-1 tornado with winds up to 105 mph was confirmed in Westport from Tropical Storm Isaias. According to First Alert Weather Chief Meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan, this is the first tornado on record in Connecticut associated with a tropical storm or hurricane.
More than 1,700 crews have been working to restore power, Eversource said.
Eversource said on Saturday that power has been restored to approximately 740,000 customers as of 5 p.m. since the storm began.
President of Regional Electric Operations Craig Hallstrom said on Friday that the focus on Wednesday, the day after the storm, was clearing roads and doing some restoration with restoration efforts really going on Friday and Thursday.
Hallstrom said they are identifying critical customers and expediting them and getting facilities critical to the infrastructure some extra help.
"We are treating this as urgently as possible," he said.
Hallstrom said they plan to have main roads up and running by Sunday evening and then get neighborhoods up.
“Unfortunately, some people will wait until Tuesday,” he said.
“We’re really trying to give as much attention to all parties as we can. It’s a delicate balance,” Hallstrom added.
Gov. Ned Lamont said the state hopes for the best, but planned for the worst and that’s not what Eversource did.
Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer Penni Conner said they plan to get restoration estimates out today.
During a news conference on Friday, the governor expressed outrage about the timeline in getting restoration expectations four days after the storm.
“I’m going to hold their feet to the fire every day until this is done,” Lamont said Friday while visiting Westport, where around 86 percent of Eversource customers in remain out of power.
Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe called Eversource’s response “woefully inadequate."
Several roads remain blocked and he said emergency crews cannot get to homes and residents with safety equipment.
“We have lives at risk,’" Marpe said.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal was in Westport with the governor on Friday afternoon and called for Eversource to clean house.
"Shame on you, Eversource," he said.
“We recognize how disruptive power outages are to our customers’ lives and we’re urgently working around-the-clock to get every customer affected by Isaias back online,” Hallstrom said in a statement. “We have more than a thousand crews currently working on restoration efforts and more crews arriving throughout the day. In addition to restoring service, we continue to focus on working with our communities and public safety officials to clear downed trees and brush and open blocked roads – we remain committed to this massive restoration and will stay on the job until every customer has their power back.”
He said crews from Canada, Michigan and Massachusetts are working alongside Eversource crews.
"I think they are playing catch up," Gov. Ned Lamont said.
As of 4:45 p.m. Saturday, Eversource was reporting more than 248,500 customers without power and United Illuminating has over 19,000 customers without electricity. At the peak number of outages on Wednesday, at least 715,000 households were without power as the cleanup from the storm began.
Eversource Deploys Resources From Satellite Command Centers
On Saturday, Eversource said it is deploying resources from satellite command centers in addition to its regular work centers.
“These satellite command centers put our crews and materials closer to the areas where they’re needed most, providing us greater flexibility to more quickly deploy the massive crew resources that we’ve brought into Connecticut,” said Eversource President of Regional Electric Operations Craig Hallstrom.
The satellite command centers are in what Eversource called six of the hardest-hit regions of the state including Berlin, Cheshire, Madison, Norwalk, Tolland and Torrington.
The centers help supplement Eversource's regular work centers, reduce materials bottlenecks and provide more efficient deployment of crews through a more localized approach, the company said.
“We remain grateful to our customers for their patience during these unprecedented times of COVID-19, and we will not rest until every customer has power," he added.
American Red Cross and Connecticut National Guard Assisting Relief Efforts
The American Red Cross in Connecticut is providing support to 25 families (77 individuals) who are unable to live in their homes after Tropical Storm Isaias.
“Tropical Storm Isaias has caused significant damage and power outages across our state,” said Mario Bruno, CEO, American Red Cross Connecticut and Rhode Island Region, said in a statement. “Right now, the Red Cross is focused on working with local and state emergency management and public health to assess damage and determine needs. We want to remind everyone to stay safe while crews work to clean up debris and restore power to our area.”
If your home is unlivable due to the storm, you can call the Red Cross at 877-287-3327 and choose option 1.
The governor activated the Connecticut National Guard on Thursday and approved plans to deploy guardsmen to assist utility crews in getting the power back on across the state.
“The Connecticut National Guard has been a major component in our efforts to minimize the impact of COVID-19 in our state, and now we’re also calling on their service to help our residents out following another major weather event,” Lamont said in a statement. “We continue to work with our municipal counterparts to help ensure they have what they need to restore power and clear our roadways.”
The governor said the biggest issue is getting enough manpower into the state to restore power.
"We've had some frank and honest discussions with Eversource in particular," Lamont said.
"We're going to be focused like a laser beam until each and every one of you has your power back," the governor said.
The governor said he wants most residents of Connecticut to have their electricity back by the end of the week and said he doesn't "want any excuses" from the power companies.
"We've got to get this state up and operating again with a working electric system, and I want that done overwhelmingly by the end of this week and I'm going to try to hold people accountable the best I can," said Lamont. In the governor's letter to the president, Lamont said it is anticipated that "full restoration may take a week or more."
Eversource Power Restoration Update
Eversource is planning to have a "very large chunk" of its customers restored by the end of the weekend, Hallstrom said.
"We estimate we will make significant progress by the end of the weekend, and have restoration substantially complete by Tuesday at 11:59 p.m., a statement on the Eversource website says.
We’re told there are 250 miles of wires to fix and about 1,000 broken poles.
More workers are arriving from out of state including from Michigan, Illinois and Ohio, as well as from Canada.
This is one of the largest power outage events in the state's modern history, among the ranks of the October snowstorm, Tropical Storm Irene, Hurricane Gloria, and Hurricane Sandy.
An executive for Eversource said he expects this will be the second-worst outage event for his company by the time it's over.
“A lot of damage real fast,” Hallstrom said.
He said more than 800,000 were impacted by this storm.
Customers' Power Bills Might Be Going Up: Eversource
Hallstrom said at some point the cost of this storm will go into the electric rate in customers' bills.
"At some point, the cost of the storm will go into customers' bill," Hallstrom said.
Leaders from several towns, including Vernon, Manchester, Tolland, Ellington and Stafford held a news conference Thursday afternoon to voice outrage at Eversource's handling of the storm.
Towns React to Utility Company Response
Vernon Mayor Daniel Champagne called Eversource's response an "epic failure." He said he is "angry" at the company's response to Isaias.
"Eversource should have been ready for this. They were not," Champagne said.
The governor seemed to agree in comments on Thursday. "I think Eversource didn't plan for the worst," Lamont said.
The town manager of Coventry said he unable to get a response or update from Eversource for priority restorations.
The first selectman for Stafford said her town was sent one Eversource crew even though it's the third-largest community by land size in the state.
"To say that Eversource failed is an understatement," said Stafford First Selectman Mary Mitta.
United Illuminating Update
In a tweet posted Thursday afternoon, United Illuminating said it hopes to have power back for the majority of customers by the end of Saturday.
"We expect to have the majority of customers without power restored by the end of Saturday. Additional crews are arriving to supplement the approximately 580 UI, contractor & mutual assistance field personnel already participating in the restoration effort," the UI tweet said.
United Illuminating has 600 crews working on power restoration with another 200 planned to join the effort on Friday from its sister company, Central Maine Company.
"At its peak we had 123,000 customers without power," said Tony Marone, President and CEO of United Illuminating, in a statement Wednesday night. "We currently have fewer than 90,000 customers without power, so progress is being made. Be assured that UI crews, contractors and partners are working diligently day and night to restore service as safely and quickly as possible. This work will take time and continue until every customer is restored. We ask for your patience during this process.
Lamont said there will be time to do postmortems on what happened with the outages.
"To be blunt, I don't see much progress for all the progress we've made" in terms of strengthening and modernizing our grid, Lamont said.
But he said he wants to focus on getting power back first.
Calls for Investigation Into Utilities
Lamont said he wants the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to begin an investigation into the response of the utility companies for their response to Tropical Storm Isaias.
On Thursday, PURA said it would act on the governor's request and begin a comprehensive investigation into how Eversource and UI prepared for and responded to the storm.
“There has been a significant failure in communication here, leaving upward of 800,000 Eversource customers without even a clear way to report an outage from the outset of the storm event," said PURA chairman Marissa P. Gillett in a statement. "There are disturbing reports emerging about the coordination, or lack thereof, between our electric utilities and the communities which they serve. This is simply unacceptable. There will be a full, transparent investigation to follow; however, I want to emphasize that the focus remains for the time being on addressing life safety issues, restoration of service to critical facilities, and restoration of service to all 1,000,000+ Connecticut residents and businesses who lost power before and after the storm.”
In a news release, the governor's office said, "The governor said that the companies’ response to the storm has been wholly inadequate and does not meet the obligations for the critical resources they are responsible for providing on behalf of Connecticut residents. He wants to know what specific steps the companies took in the lead up to Tropical Storm Isaias, which had been forecast to impact Connecticut several days prior to making landfall and remained relatively on the track that meteorologists had predicted."
"The restoration effort that is already underway is likely to last several days, and customers who are currently without service should factor that into their planning," UI said in an email to customers on Tuesday night.
“Tropical Storm Isaias was a significant weather event, comparable to major storms Connecticut has faced in the past,” said Tony Marone, UI’s President and CEO, said in a press release. “We saw damage across our electric system, in all of the 17 towns and cities we serve, with more than 1,600 outage-causing events and more than 1,000 wires down that for safety reasons crews must address.”
Election Day Preparations
With hundreds of thousands of power outages around the state and the primary election day set for Tuesday, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill said her office is in touch with local election officials and the power companies. Secretary Merrill said the power companies have a list of polling places with the understanding they will prioritize polls in time for election day.
"In Connecticut, voting continues in the face of bad weather, as we saw in the wake of the 2011 October snowstorm and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, so I am working with election officials in each town to ensure that the election this Tuesday is safe, secure, and accessible to every voter in every town," Merrill said.
Lamont said he expects electricity back in time for the election or "there will be hell to pay."