Malloy: State coping ‘remarkably well’ with record snow

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Wednesday night that the state was on the path to normalcy after a record-breaking storm that forced the closure of state offices, schools, courts and many companies as it dropped more snow on Connecticut in 12 hours than the state had ever seen in a full day.

“Connecticut will be open for business tomorrow. We’re confident of that,” Malloy said in his third and final storm briefing of a long day. “It is first and foremost our job to protect people; number two, to return to commerce as quickly as we can.”

Malloy said between 24 and 30 inches fell on large swaths of central and western Connecticut, setting 24-hour snowfall records in Fairfield, New Haven, Hartford, Litchield and Tolland counties. Most of the state received at least one foot of snow.

“I want to thank the people of Connecticut for heeding our warning, even at this hour,” Malloy said.

The governor said cleanup was aided by residents and private employers who largely heeded his call to stay home. Malloy closed state offices, ordering only essential employees to work.

“All in all, things are going remarkably well,” Malloy said at midday.

Compared to other historic storms that paralyzed the state for days, such as the storied Blizzard of ’78, this Nor’easter had several attributes that minimized disruption, Malloy said. It began late at night, allowing plows to keep major highways open, and the winds were what the governor described as “just right.”

The wind was strong enough to keep snow from accumulating on trees, but not so strong as to blow down wires, Malloy said. As of 2 p.m. Connecticut Light & Power reported few problems. Once exception was the coastal community of Old Lyme, with 500 outages.

Another factor: the empty roads. Malloy thanked private employers, the public and truckers for making it easier for state and local crews to work, and he urged the public to hunker down until the storm ends.

“I gotta tell you, if you’re coming out of your driveway and you don’t have a four-wheel drive that’s rreally good, with good tires, you’re probably going to get stuck,” Malloy told residents at midday. “We’re urging people to stay off the road. Let us do our job. Let us clean the roads.”

One hitch: The storm system stalled near Cape Cod, delaying clearing that forecasters thought might happen by early afternoon. Light snow is expected to continue until early evening, possibly pushing accumulations in some areas to 32 inches.

The state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security reported at 1 p.m. that snowfalls ranged from 14 inches to 30 inches.

Malloy said the state was responding to scattered problems, including buses stuck in Hartford and the collapse of a roof on an apartment building in Norwich. No injuries were reported in the collapse.

Electric outages were “remarkably low.” Other than eastern Connecticut, the state was spared the winds that raked coastal Massachusetts, causing tens of thousands of power outages, Malloy said. By 6 p.m., CL&P had restored power to 8,000 customers and the remaining 450 should see service return by midnight, he said.

Malloy had no estimate on the storm’s cost, but the record snowfall may help qualify the state for federal reimbursement.

“There may be light at the end of that tunnel,” Malloy said.

Malloy left the briefing at the EOC in the State Armory with Lt. Gov. Nancy S. Wyman to meet at the nearby State Capitol with top staffers on the budget he will deliver to the legislature on Feb. 16. With an estimated deficit of more than $3.5 billion, Malloy called the budget the state’s “other disaster.”

Malloy did not order the highways closed, but he suggested Tuesday and again today that motorists follow the example of state employees and stay home, if possible. The state was reporting sporadic road closings from accidents, including one that closed I-84 east in Waterbury and I-95 in Norwalk.

“There’s just no reason to be out there,” Malloy said.

The state reported snowfalls at 5 a.m. ranging from 12 inches across much of the state to 17 inches in Rocky Hill, with snow falling at rates of one to three inches per hour.

Malloy signed an emergency order Tuesday night that will allow him to quickly close the state’s highways and take other steps if deemed necessary today, but it did not appear today he would use that power.

“We are declaring a civil preparedness emergency in anticipation of snow fall of 18 to 24 inches,” Malloy said at 9:30 Tuesday night, holding his third storm briefing of the day. “I hope all of that doesn’t happen. I want to be very clear.”

Courts were closed today, as well as school systems.

Utilities reported scattered outages, which are regularly updated on these online maps posted byConnecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating.

Malloy originally said non-essential state employees should not report to work before noon, but he revised that order today at 6 a.m. to cancel the first shift.