Despite causing fewer power outages, Hurricane Sandy appears to have taken a deeper toll on Connecticut residents and properties than last year’s Tropical Storm Irene, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said late Tuesday.
Following a day of touring much of Connecticut’s shoreline, Malloy said he fears as many as four lives were lost and estimated that “hundreds” of homes were left uninhabitable by the storm. He added that officials won’t know for certain until after several days of damage assessment.
Meanwhile, the governor announced that his request for a disaster declaration in four Connecticut counties along the shoreline was approved. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials will determine the need for relief for the state’s other four counties after damage assessments are more developed.
Also Tuesday, about 550,000 homes and businesses remained without electrical power by early evening. And though restoration efforts are under way, the first day after Hurricane Sandy was spent primarily clearing blocked roads, assessing damage and setting up staging areas for repair crews.
“I saw people who loved their town and their home and are determined to get their lives back as quickly as possible,” said the governor, who visited Bridgeport, East Haven, Easton, Greenwich, Newtown and Stamford. “… Fortunately for us, Connecticut residents are tough.”
Though the governor visited the shoreline by car Tuesday, he said Connecticut National Guard teams are starting to assess damage by helicopter, and Malloy said the footage shows “it is extraordinary the scope of damage that has been done to Connecticut.”
One of the shoreline’s principal connection with New York City remains in limbo. The governor said Amtrak’s shoreline rail service won’t be operating Wednesday and the Metro-North commuter line running between New Haven and Manhattan also likely will be out of service.
There have been preliminary discussions about arranging a shuttle service between Stamford and New York, but nothing has been resolved to date, Malloy said.
“We should be thankful it wasn’t worse,” he added. “It was bad, really bad. … But we’ll learn lessons. We’ll make improvements.”
Malloy praised members of the National Guard, police, firefighters and other state and municipal officials who responded to the devastation.
Though the governor didn’t name him, he took a moment to praise Russell Neary, an Easton firefighter who was killed Monday in the line of duty. Neary reportedly was struck by a tree limb while working to clear debris in front of a fire truck.
Other victims of Monday’s storm include:
- Brian Bakunas, 40, whose body was discovered in the waters of Milford. He had last been seen swimming in heavy surf near Walnut Beach Pier, according to media reports.
- Olga Raymond, 90, of Mansfield, who was struck and killed by a falling tree.
Officials in Milford searched Monday until the hurricane struck for a man in his 20s who was reported missing and had been last seen kayaking in Long Island Sound.
Though there were fewer power outages than after the major storms in August and October of 2011, the numbers linked to Sandy are significant: More than 690,000 lost power at the height of the storm.
And while executives from Connecticut Light & Power Co. and United Illuminating insisted their utilities were better prepared to respond to Hurricane Sandy than to last year’s storms, they also said it is premature to begin predicting when all power would be restored.
CL&P, which serves 1.2 million homes and businesses covering 149 of the state’s 169 cities and towns, had mobilized 1,080 line repair workers and 638 tree removal workers from out of state as of early Tuesday evening, Senior Vice President William Quinlan reported. CL&P also has about 400 line repair staff and 300 tree removal workers from within Connecticut.
“I do expect those numbers to increase over the next several days,” Quinlan said, adding that Connecticut is competing with other states for the same available workers. “This storm has had broad impacts across the nation,” causing more than 6 million outages. “We believe we are getting the resources necessary to respond in Connecticut.”
CL&P outages peaked at 500,000, about 430,000 remained to be addressed by early Tuesday evening.
The largest number of outages were in eastern Connecticut, and the heavily wooded southeastern corner in particular, where gusting winds and falling trees helped to disable 11 transmission lines that feed large quantities of power to the areas.
Quinlan said damage assessments would continue Wednesday.
“It is very difficult to assess. Every storm is different,” he said, quickly adding that the company already has more resources in the field than it had when it first responded to the damages caused by either of the 2011 storms.
Malloy was one of CL&P’s most vocal critics when it took the utility nine days to restore power after an August 2011 storm, and 12 to fix all outages after another event two months later.
“I know the big question people want answered is: When will the power go back on?” he said, urging residents to temper their expectations. “Folks, there’s a lot of damage out there,” he said. “We have to keep that in mind. We will hold everyone accountable, but we have to be realistic as well.”
Meanwhile, United Illuminating, which serves 325,000 customers in all or portions of 17 communities near the shoreline, reported 146,000 outages by 6 p.m. Tuesday, down from a peak of 194,000 during the storm.
UI President James Torgeson said three substations in Bridgeport that were preemptively shut down Monday night in anticipation of flooding sustained no serious damage. These stations, which serve about 52,000 customers, have been re-energized.
Torgeson added that UI has 349 line repair staff and 224 tree removal workers in the field.
Also Tuesday, the governor directed nonessential state employees to return to work Wednesday.
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