The governor as weatherman

In three press briefings, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy gave Connecticut a glimpse Tuesday of his style as storm-watcher-in-chief: With a Nor’easter expected to blanket most of the state with at least a foot of snow Wednesday, his stance was less warm and fuzzy and more of the don’t-be-stupid school.

“I am urging people to complete their business today, before the snow starts,” Malloy said, delivering a sound bite in time for the early evening television newscasts. Before the late news, Malloy again stood before the cameras, announcing all non-essential state employees should stay home until noon Wednesday.

But his own forecast: People will get caught in the storm.

“Let me say this. We’re going to have people stranded, right? Because people are going to do silly things or get surprised by occurrences,” Malloy said in the first of three briefings. “Clearly if you could plan to avoid being on our highway system between the hours of 2 a.m. and 2 o’clock tomorrow afternoon, that would be a good thing.”

In less than a week as governor, Malloy has his share of time being briefed on approaching coastal storms. On Tuesday, for the third time since his inauguration a week ago, he was on a conference call with municipal officials talking about the weather.

Malloy Wyman at EOC

Malloy, Wyman get briefed on storm.

Malloy warned reporters in a briefing at the Emergency Operations Center at the State Armory that his first winter as mayor of Stamford was marked by one of the heaviest snowfalls in a century.

“I hope this is not a trend,” Malloy said.

Malloy was briefed again at 4 p.m. by the state’s weather adviser, Douglas Glowacki, when he was advised to wait at least until 9 p.m. before deciding if he will order state employees to stay home Wednesday. The latest forecasts predicted accumulations of between 15 and 25 inches, depending on the storm’s track.

“We are watching. There is some movement in the storm,” Malloy told reporters at 4:30 p.m. in a second briefing in his office at the Capitol.

At 9:30 p.m., Malloy announced he had just signed an order that will allow him to close the state’s highways — if he deems it necessary during the day Wednesday.

Malloy said he has consulted with other elected officials in the northeast about coordinating aid, depending which areas bear the brunt of the storm.

Earlier in the day, he asked the public to monitor weather forecasts about the approaching coastal storm, noting that its ultimate track could mean the difference between a dusting or more than 20 inches. Later, the possibility of a dusting seemed to be off the table.

Most forecasting models showed two possibilities: heavy snow in central Connecticut or heavy snow throughout the state.

“Let’s be very clear, if we get 20 inches of snow, it’s going to be a mess,” Malloy said. “If we get 20 inches of snow, people are going to complain. They’re going to be unhappy.”

Malloy said he was going to spend the rest of his time on the state’s other disaster, the budget. But money would not be an object in clearing the roads.

“Quite frankly, we’re not worried about budgets, we’re worried about safety,” Malloy said. “We always worry about budgets after the fact.”

Malloy shrugged off questions about the politics of weather. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the regional leaders Malloy phoned this afternoon about the storm, still is coping with complaints about unplowed streets in New York. And every politician in Connecticut is aware that the weather can tarnish or burnish a gubernatorial reputation.

Thomas Meskill was forever haunted for being in Vermont when an ice storm hit. An iconic moment for Ella Grasso was an aerial photo of someone who had called for help after a blizzard by stamping her first name in the snow.

“I don’t feel any pressure to demonstrate leadership above and beyond that which I was hired to do,” Malloy said.

But he smiled and added that, no, he will not be leaving the state if snow is in the forecast.