CL&P head says some areas may stay dark for at least a week

The head of the state’s largest utility said it will dramatically expand the number of crews working to restore power after the weekend’s storm, but he warned it will be at least a week before all customers have electric service again.

Connecticut Light & Power Co., which covers about 80 percent of the state’s utility customers, had restored service to 170,000 homes and businesses by  6 p.m., Monday, and still had about 740,000 to go, company president Jeffrey Butler said.

Nearly 500 crews were working on Monday in CL&P’s coverage area, but that as more crews from outside Connecticut are brought in, that workforce is set to grow to top 840 on Tuesday, 1,050 on Wednesday and 1,250 on Thursday, Butler said.

Though the company warned total restoration of all outages likely would take longer than one week, Butler said CL&P still is working to have power restored to majority of customers within that period.

A large part of that challenge, he said, should be resolved by Wednesday, when the company expects to have completed repairs on 13 critical transmission circuits, major transmission lines serving substations that in turn each provide power to thousands of customers, Butler said.

Once this hurdle is cleared, he said, the utility can focus on smaller, more specific problems blocking power to specific neighborhoods or residences, he said.

United Illuminating, which serves about one-fifth of Connecticut’s electricity customers, had restored power to about 46,000 residences and businesses, UI’s CEO, James Torgerson, said Monday, adding it had 159 crews in the field.

The company, which primarily serves Fairfield County, expects to restore the final 7,400 outages on Tuesday, after which it will redirect its work force to assist CL&P.

Butler and Torgerson spoke at a briefing Monday evening at the state armory, where Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he will issue an executive order giving voters more time to register for the Nov. 8 municipal elections.

“No one will lose their right to vote as a result of this storm,” Malloy said, adding that emergency powers granted under state law will allow him to sign an executive order on Tuesday to extend the registration period for the Nov. 8 municipal elections. The registration deadline for voters intended to cast ballots this year is otherwise set for 8 p.m. Tuesday.

The governor said his order will reset that deadline for noon on Monday, Nov. 7. That will keep cities and towns registering voters up until 18 hours before the polls close.

Malloy acknowledged some might be frustrated by his decision, but some town halls across Connecticut remain closed due to a lack of electricity. “Protecting people’s right to vote is the more important consideration,” he said.

Malloy also urged motorists to consider traveling outside of their home community to purchase gasoline — and particularly to consider the shoreline, where outages are less frequent and more service stations are open.

The ongoing power outages have produced long gas lines in communities that have just a few filling stations with the electrical service needed to operate pumps.

The governor, who toured Connecticut by helicopter earlier Monday, noted that although the weekend storm dumped as much as two feet of snow on some portions of the state, the lightest accumulation and the least damage occurred, for the most part, along the shoreline.

Rather than wait hours in gasoline lines at the local station, consumers might be better served, if they can, by traveling south, Malloy said. “If you’re anywhere near the (Interstate)-95 corridor, go there,” he said.

The governor added that carbon monoxide poisoning might be the single-largest threat t public safety at this point, reminding residents not to operate gas-powered grills or portable generators inside of their homes. Another problem, the governor added, involves residents using their vehicles to charge cell phones, but allowing the vehicle to run while inside a garage.

Meanwhile, President Obama signed a preliminary declaration Monday declaring an emergency in Connecticut. The signing is just the initial phase in a multi-tiered process, Malloy said, adding that  it will allow federal agencies to mobilize emergency supplies and equipment for the state with Washington covering 75 percent of the cost. Additional fiscal aid may be forthcoming as Connecticut continues to assess the damage, Malloy said.