What to Know
- Around 600 Connecticut customers remain without electricity on Wednesday, more than a week after the storm.
- Eversource reached its goal to have power substantially restored to most customers by late Tuesday, a week after Tropical Storm Isaias hit the state. It provided customers with restoration timelines over the weekend.
- U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal called on Eversource's CEO, James Judge, to resign and said he wants accountability from the company and refunds for customers.
Power remains out for around 600 Connecticut customers more than a week after Tropical Storm Isaias and Eversource said crews are focused on the remaining single or scattered power outages, which are more complex outages.
The company said these outages take additional time to complete and might require assistance from a private electrician or contractor.
Lineworkers are going to each of the individual locations to assess what additional equipment or effort might be required to make repairs.
The storm struck last Tuesday, killing two people and leaving widespread damage across the state and entire towns in the dark.
Eversource said it met its goal to have 99% of customers back on by Tuesday night. United Illuminating said they completed their restoration work Tuesday evening, though they warned that some may see intermittent and temporary outages as they continue inspection work.
At the peak number of outages on Wednesday, at least 715,000 households were without power as the cleanup from the storm began.
Local leaders have criticized the power companies' response to the storm, saying that both Eversource and UI were not adequately prepared and that some towns went days before seeing crews out to make repairs.
Attorney General William Tong called on the power companies to reimburse customers for the food and medications they were forced to throw out after days without power.
"To be totally unprepared for (the storm) is inexcusable, and as I said it's a stunning failure at a time when people are struggling to feed themselves and their families," Tong said as he stood before dumpsters in West Hartford Wednesday.
Tong was joined by West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor, who said both residents and businesses in her town struggled without power for days after the storm.
"I'm pleading with Eversource and UI to be partners and help residents recoup what they lost," Cantor said, pointing out that already struggling restaurants in her town took a huge hit to their inventory and business while they waited for their power to be restored.
Tong said he was going to push the power companies to do "the right thing" and noted that ConEdison, a power company in New York, has reimbursed customers for the food they were forced to toss.
Tong is also calling for PURA to expand the investigation into the power companies' response and crate a contested case, which will allow for a trial-like proceeding so the state can seek maximum fines and penalties.
As of 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, there were still 303 Eversource customers without power. UI's site listed 236 customers still out.
Eversource said the company is reaching out directly to its affected customers to give an update on the restoration progress and let them know where they can find information.
“Our employees and out-of-state crews are doing a tremendous job repairing damage and restoring power after this destructive storm,” Eversource President of Regional Electric Operations Craig Hallstrom said in a statement. “Thanks to the focus and commitment of the thousands of crews in the field and support personnel working hard behind the scenes, we were able to achieve our goal of restoring power to the vast majority of customers by last night. We know how tough it is for customers to be without power and we greatly appreciate their patience.”
Hallstrom previously said he understands the frustration of its customers and the company has a sense of urgency.
"I understand it's frustrating. Its been a long period of time. It's hot today, but again, they have my commitment that we are working as hard as we possibly can to get this done," he said Tuesday.
Hallstrom said there was more damage from Tropical Storm Isaias than from Hurricane Sandy or Tropical Storm Irene, but that they will have restoration complete in up to a 30% shorter timeframe.
"I think the record will show the Eversource team of men and women who are on these streets every day without rest … we are going to show they did a tremendous job to restore," he said.
More than 2,500 crews have been working since the weekend to restore power, the utility company said. Hallstrom said some crews have even opted to sleep in their vehicles rather than returning to their hotels to speed the process along.
Town leaders from Danbury, Bethel and Ridgefield, the hard-hit western part of the state, challenged Hallstrom's assertion that the company was adequately prepared, saying Tuesday they still had intersections blocked and residents and businesses without power. Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker said in his town they didn't see a "Make Safe" crew until three days after the storm. Leaders from all three municipalities also said they received little or no communication from Eversource liaisons.
"We're going to learn from this and make sure we do better and better and better when it comes to a faster response, 'cause timing is key," Governor Ned Lamont said while thanking line workers and restoration crews in Bristol. "This is not a utility, this is not just electricity, this is life-giving for people and that's what each and everyone of you do during this last six days of hell."
The governor said it took too long to make the progress the state is seeing with decreasing outages.
"It took a long time -- it took many, many, too many days to get where we are today," Lamont said. "We've got well over 90% of the people in our state have power ... that's false comfort, false comfort 'cause of the tough times people have had to go through over the last four days -- life and death times, really hard times."
The outages enter into an eighth day as many try to work from home amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and as with temperatures and humidity rising after a break following Isaias.
Eversource said the single or scattered power outages take additional time to complete and might require assistance from a private electrician or contractor.
The company said lineworkers are going to each individual location to determine what additional equipment or effort might be required to make repairs.
One local leader, Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, posted his frustration on social media.
More than 5,000 Eversource customers in Danbury did not have power Tuesday. There are around 250 outages Wednesday morning.
"We understand how difficult it is for our customers to be without power. We currently have about 2,200 line and tree crews working to restore power in the western part of the state. In Danbury, crews are responding to more than 300 trouble spots – each of these is a location with an electric issue that must be addressed, and in many cases, the problem requires re-building the electric system. Nonetheless, we continue to make steady progress toward restoring power to 99% of all our customers by late tonight," Eversource said in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Eversource should put money back in customers' pockets through refunds. The senator had a meeting scheduled in Berlin Monday afternoon with Eversource CEO James Judge. Blumenthal said he thinks Judge should resign and wants accountability from the company's top management.
"I've asked for Jim Judge's resignation," Blumenthal said. "I think he ought to resign and I'll be raising it with him."
Eversource executives were asked about the senator's comments during an afternoon news conference.
"We're focused on getting our customers back," Hallstrom said when asked about Blumenthal's calls for Judge to resign. Hallstrom said Judge has been in Connecticut for several days, speaking with state leaders and regulators.
Blumenthal said he too was without electricity at his house until Sunday.
"I feel that anger and frustration," the senator said. "I feel why it has boiled over in the state of Connecticut."
"Our gripe is not with the guys fixing the poles and the wires, it's with management, top management," said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
“We know how urgently customers need their power restored, especially right now given the pandemic and hot summer weather, and we are making significant progress,” Hallstrom said in a statement. “Our crews and the thousands of out-of-state crews working alongside them have done a tremendous job under difficult conditions – working in the heat while abiding by social distancing and pandemic safety protocols. The field crews and thousands of support personnel working behind the scenes are committed to staying on the job until every customer has their power back.”
Crews from 12 states and Canada came to Connecticut to assist with power restoration, Eversource said.
"I think they are playing catch up," Gov. Lamont said.
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.
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.
Lamont said he wants to incentivize utility companies "to get it right, not to get it wrong." He said he wants a company's response to factor into its rate of return.
"They should have anticipated this, they should have seen what was going on," Lamont said.
Eversource Releases Town-by-Town Estimates for Restoration
Over the weekend, Eversource released a list of town-by-town estimates that lays out when customers can expect restoration to be substantially complete.
The company said in order for restoration to be substantially complete, fewer than 1% of customers will be without power.
For a list of town-by-town restoration estimates, click here.
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.
Senator Blumenthal called out Eversource for its response to Tropical Storm Isaias. He called on the company to "refund" customers, saying in a tweet they have been overcharged, deprived of service and given no answers.
"Consumers deserve money back and refunds, not additional charges for the cost of restoring power," Blumenthal said.
Eversource sent a statement in response, which read:
"Any adjustments to customer bills must have the approval of state regulators. We remain focused on one thing doing everything we can do to restore power to our remaining affected customers as quickly and safely as possible," an Eversource spokesperson said.
United Illuminating Update
United Illuminating restored power to most customers and Tweeted Tuesday night that there were scattered outages due to issues affecting single services