State dodges ice storm, now worries about roof collapses

Connecticut dodged heavy icing and widespread power outages in the latest storm, but the risk of roof failures is increasing as the thick snowpack becomes sodden with rain, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said today.

Search and rescue crews were dispatched to Waterbury, where a homeless man was feared trapped in a collapsed vacant building. And the roof of a major commercial building failed in Milford.

“People need to be aware of signs. If you hear a lot of noise or creaking, that’s a particular problem,” Malloy said at his midday storm briefing. “This is a constant worry for us at this point.”

The good news, aside from a groundhog named Phil not seeing his shadow today in Punxsutawney, Pa., and thus forecasting a quick end to an endless winter, is that icing on wires and tree branches did not exceed a half inch, Malloy said.

“At a half inch or greater, we could’ve reasonably expected as many as 800,000 outages,” Malloy said. “That didn’t happen, so we dodged that particular one.”

CL&P reported 3,900 customers without power and United Illuminating  had 6,900. Both utilities reported that most of the outages were due to a half-dozen failures, meaning a quick restoration of power to most customers.

The depth of the snowpack is causing other problems: “snow slides,” or small avalanches that tumble into roads. Route 44 at Prospect Mountain Road in Salisbury was closed temporarily by one slide.

Malloy is likely the first Connecticut governor to field a question at a press conference about a report of a local avalanche, but it’s been that kind of winter.

The governor’s election was a winter omen of sorts. He was elected to his first term as mayor of Stamford in 1995, and the winter that followed still holds the record for snow fall in Connecticut.

Call it the Malloy effect.

The governor was asked if he was frustrated by the string of storms, which have seemingly distilled his first month as governor to a series of private meetings on the budget and public turns at a lectern in the storm center.

“What good would it do if I was frustrated? I wasn’t in a burrow this morning and somebody grabbed me and pulled me out,” Malloy said. “This, too, shall pass.”