What to Know
- More than 450,000 Connecticut customers remain without electricity Thursday evening. Governor Lamont has declared a state of emergency and asked President Trump for a federal declaration.
- Eversource estimates it will have power restored to most customers by late Tuesday night, a week after Tropical Storm Isaias hit the state. PURA said it will begin an investigation into the utilities' preparation and response to the storm.
- Cell phone towers are losing capabilities, according to a letter the governor sent to the White House, and one-third of the state's nursing homes and some of CT's correctional facilities are on generators.
Hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents remain without power as the cleanup continues following Tropical Storm Isaias, which killed two people and left widespread damage across the state and entire towns in the dark. The outages are continuing into another day as many try to work from home amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and as the forecast calls for increasing heat and humidity in the coming days.
Eversource estimates it will have power restored to most customers by late Tuesday night, a 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.
More than 700 crews are working to restore power, Eversource says. Starting Friday, Connecticut will be receiving aid from out-of-state crews which the company says will increase crew resources to 1,189.
“With crews from Canada, Michigan and Massachusetts working alongside our Eversource crews, we remain laser-focused on this restoration and are committed to staying on the job around-the-clock until every customer has power back. We are grateful to our customers for their patience and recognize the tremendous inconvenience that being without electricity presents during the ongoing pandemic and hot days of summer," Eversource President of Regional Electric Operations Craig Hallstrom said.
Two people lost their lives in the storm and its aftermath, said Governor Ned Lamont, who said five people suffered serious fatalities. According to Paul Mounds, the governor's chief of staff, the second, previously unreported death was from a chainsaw accident in Newtown.
As of 11:30 p.m. Thursday, Eversource was reporting more than 450,000 customers without power and United Illuminating had more than 70,000 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.
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,” Governor 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 right now 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 is planning to have a "very large chunk" of its customers restored by the end of the weekend, said Craig Hallstrom, President of Regional Electric Operations for Eversource Energy. Eversource plans to issue a global timeline for restoration by Thursday night.
"I know it's a very frustrating time for our communities and our customers," Hallstrom said.
Katie Dykes, commissioner of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said the state is waiting for an official timeline from Eversource for restoration.
The situation only appears to be growing more urgent and dire. In his letter to the president, the governor said 33 nursing homes are on generator power, cell towers are losing capabilities and four correctional facilities are on generators. The governor also said 31 public water systems are on generators. In addition, a heat wave is expected to start Sunday and the humidity will continue to increase starting Friday.
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.
Eversource Responds to Complaints
Eversource currently has 700 electric restoration crews and 500-600 damage assessors working across the state, with plans to double those numbers in next 24 hours, according to Hallstrom. He said crews are arriving from as far away as Detroit and Canada.
"I think they are playing catch up," the governor said.
Hallstrom said at some point the cost of this storm will go into the electric rate in customers' bills.
Leaders from a number of towns, including Vernon, Manchester, Tolland, Ellington and Stafford had a news conference Thursday afternoon to voice outrage at Eversource's handling of the storm.
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 its 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
United Illuminating said it has already restored powers to tens of thousands of customers, but that it expects the process to take at least several days to get everyone back on the grid.
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.
"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.
Lamont declared a state of emergency Wednesday for Connecticut to be able to get in additional resources to help with recovery. The governor has asked President Donald Trump and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a Presidential Emergency Declaration to help with the cleanup and recovery.
Calls for Investigation Into Utilities
Governor 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 press 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.”
Some State Parks Reopen
After closing all state parks, forests and campgrounds for Wednesday, the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection reopened some locations Thursday.
Election Day Preparations
With hundreds of thousands of power outages around the state and 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.
Governor Lamont said he expects electricity back in time for the election or "there will be hell to pay."