Irene destroyed or significantly damaged 132 homes

Tropical Storm Irene destroyed or significantly damaged 132 homes in Connecticut in the judgment of federal damage assessment teams, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said Thursday.

But the state still is awaiting a federal disaster declaration that would provide assistance, such as expedited Small Business Administration loans. New Jersey and New York have received disaster declarations.

Malloy urged residents to call 2-1-1 with damage reports, including storm impact on water and septic systems.

“This is very important as we continue to make our case for declaration under FEMA,” Malloy said.

Businesses in Litchfield and Fairfield counties already are eligible for disaster aid, since their counties adjoin counties in New York that already have been declared disaster areas.

Power outages were reduced Thursday to 243,000 customers from a high of more than 800,000, with 210,000 Connecticut Light & Power and 33,000 United Illuminating clients still in the dark.

“That’s only good news for the people whose power is back on,” Malloy said.

CL&P had 1,280 two-person crews deployed, with 240 more scheduled to arrive Friday. UI had 300 crews, with 30 more on the way.

“As other states are getting more and more of their power back on, crews have been available to our state,” Malloy said.

Malloy faced angry residents Wednesday as he toured heavily wooded communities in eastern Connecticut, where the winds were strongest and the number of outages the highest.

UI expects to have 98 percent of customers with power by Saturday night, while CL&P is saying it will reach 99 percent on Wednesday.

The governor tried to avoid being drawn Thursday into a controversy over whether CL&P should relax rules that limit crews to 16 hours, followed by eight hours off.

“If the dispute is over whether you should be working more than 16 hours on a continual basis, I think that clearly our experience in Gloria indicates that should not be done on a sustained basis,” Malloy said.

A lineman was killed trying to restore power after Hurricane Gloria in 1985. Fatigue was a factor in the death, Malloy said.

Malloy said he saw nothing wrong with crews working for 24 hours straight for a day, but not when the scope of an outage is going to require crews from working long days for a week or more.

The governor said the performance and policies of the utilities will be examined, but not now.

“There’s plenty of time to talk a bout this stuff after we get more of our folks reconnected,” Malloy said. “I’m certainly happy to have that conversation and revisit it.”

Many state parks are reopening for the weekend, and Malloy said admission will be free for day visits.

The UConn football team’s game against Fordham, originally scheduled for Thursday, will be played Saturday at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.

The game was delayed, because a parking facility was used as a staging area for the distribution of emergency water and food supplies. The distribution is area is being moved to a nearby United Technologies Corporation facility.

“This is always a balancing act, and a return to normalcy is important to some folks.” he said.