By Brenda Maguire
HARTFORD — In 2005 it was Rita and Katrina. Three years later came Ike and Gustav. Now this year it’s Tropical Storm Irene and the weekend snowstorm dubbed by some as Alfred.
“This is Connecticut’s one-two punch, only it came in the form of a hurricane and a snowstorm,” said Bill Bryan, a deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. Department of Energy.
With more than 678,000 state residents without power from the weekend storm, Gov. Dannel Malloy and Bryan met Tuesday to discuss how the state will regain its power.
“I want everyone to understand that our No. 1 priority is getting power restored to people in the state of Connecticut,” Malloy said.
There are 6,000 workers expected to come to the region to assist with debris pickup and restoring electricity grids. Malloy expressed disappointment with the number of utility workers being sent to the state and the time it is taking for the crews to arrive from 15 states, as far away as Texas and California, as well as parts of Canada.
“I think that everyone is working in earnest, but I am admitting to you, or saying to you that we are underwhelmed by the contributions being made from outside Connecticut to this effort,” Malloy said.
The biggest issue the state is facing is that the storm damaged 32 transmission lines. The transmission lines run from power plants to substations.
“They’ve got to get up and running before we can do the distribution grid and the distribution grid is what feeds your homes,” explained Bryan.
Neither Malloy or Bryan were able to give an estimate on how much time it will take to get the state’s power up and running.
“I can tell you in our experience and in the South after hurricanes, the transmission grid can get up fairly quickly, often in less than a week, with the right folks and the right equipment,” Bryan said.
Connecticut Light & Power as of Tuesday had restored 13 transmission lines.
Katie Blint, spokeswoman for CL&P, said the company first restores power where there are medical emergencies, critical services or public safety concerns.
From there, crews try to restore power in the towns and cities where the most customers are affected. She said rural areas are often last to get power, however, it varies from storm to storm.
CL&P then contacts a local official of each municipality, such as an emergency management director or fire chief, to prioritize which neighborhoods get power before others.
Bryan says Connecticut residents should expect their power to be restored at a slower pace than it was after Tropical Storm Irene because of the collective affect of the storms.
“When Hurricane Irene came through and did the damage that it did it saturated the ground and you also had a lot of rain following that, which did more saturation. Couple that with a very early snowfall as early as this was and all the leaves still on the trees, and it caused a lot of up rooting,” Bryan said. “And these trees, when they get weighed down and the ground is saturated, they fall and they take down lines.”