NOTE: Front page story in New Britain Herald
By Brenda Maguire
Residents this week have huddled around a map posted on the wall at the shelter established at Plainville High School.
The map, at one point largely blank, has slowly been colored in street by street as Plainville neighborhoods regain power in the aftermath of last weekend’s storm.
People at the shelter smiled each time a street was colored in, even if it wasn’t their own.
“They could see the progress being made,” Town Manager Robert E. Lee said.
Residents still in the shelter Friday can expect to see the map colored in completely by the end of the weekend as Connecticut Light & Power predicts power will be restored statewide by Sunday at midnight.
On Friday there were about 1,300 crews working statewide during the day, and another 430 crews working overnight shifts. The utility crews along with municipal leaders, emergency-responders and others were working to bring a sense of normalcy to a state dealt a blow by winter’s early arrival.
“I think Day 1 and Day 2 after the storm most people were understanding,” Berlin Mayor Adam Salina said. But he said frustration mounted as the week progressed and power outages continued.
The run on hotel rooms that began early in the week has subsided, but demand remains high. An employee of the La Quinta Inn and Suites in downtown New Britain said business remains brisk there, but that as of Friday a handful of rooms were available.
In fact, business is booming for hotels across the state, according to Ginny Kozlowski, executive director of the Connecticut Lodging Association, which represents about one-fourth of the state’s hotels.
“We’re running pretty close to 100 percent occupancy,” she said.
She added that because of Tropical Storm Irene and now the October snowstorm known as Alfred, hotels have done well over the second half of the year.
She also noted that hotels are being filled with utility crews coming to Connecticut to help with restoring power and clean-up.
As more Central Connecticut residents head back to illuminated homes, demand is easing at area shelters.
Lee, the Plainville town manager, expects the town shelter will be closing by Sunday, unless power is not restored as quickly as expected.
“We feel pretty confident that we’ll be at that level,” he said Friday.
Newington Mayor Mike Lenares will keep the shelter at Newington High School open until power is restored.
“They gave us an estimated time of Sunday at midnight, but who knows?”
“It can’t be soon enough,” he later added.
The shelter in Berlin at Catherine M. McGee Middle School plans to stay open until all power is restored.
“There are at least several people in our shelter whose streets do not have power,” Town Manager Denise McNair said.
The shelter at the Senior Center in New Britain will close today at 4 p.m., according to a news release issued by the city.
“I would like to thank the Senior Center and Health Department staff, the police and firefighters who assisted at the shelter, CERT volunteers, Whitson’s Food Service, the Visiting Nurse Association and all those who donated food and supplies to keep the shelter operational,” Mayor Timothy T. Stewart said in the release.
Despite the anger that flared this week at gas stations and elsewhere, Lee was looking at the positive side Friday and said he was impressed with Plainville’s demonstration of coming together during a difficult time.
“We got to see a lot of the goodness in our community come out,” he said.
Over the week neighbors have been helping each other clear their lawns, residents have volunteered at shelters, and local restaurants donated food to the shelters.
“I think neighbors have been wonderful for each other,” said McNair, the Berlin town manager. She also noted that it was good for families who have been playing cards and spending more time than usual together.
Representatives of the Senior Center in Newington drove to the homes of elderly residents to check on them after the storm to ensure they had power and were OK.
“The whole town goes forward together,” Lenares said.
Berlin Mayor Salina is excited for the power to be restored in Connecticut and already has a plan for what he’ll do when it’s fully restored.
“I’ll be able to sleep,” he laughed Friday.