As shoreline recovers from Sandy, another threat looms

As the state continues to recover from damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, more severe weather began this morning and will continue into tomorrow. That's especially bad news for shoreline towns in southwestern Connecticut, the region of the state expected to be hardest-hit by the latest nor'easter, where restoration efforts from last week may be hampered.

"This is the longest our emergency operations center has ever been open in its history," said Dan Warzoha, emergency management director in Greenwich, where more than 1,000 people are still without power after last week's storm.

"I don't want to repeat this anytime soon, you know?"

But Warzoha wasn't sure he'd have much choice. While the nor'easter whipping through the tri-state area is not expected to cause nearly as much damage as Hurricane Sandy, high-speed wind gusts and coastal flooding are still very much a threat. Warzoha said Greenwich has already sent notices to residents in low-lying areas, suggesting they may have to evacuate.

"The coastline has been dramatically changed from Hurrciane Sandy, and we've lost a lot of seawalls and barriers," he said. "Property that normally wouldn't be inundated with water from a storm of this magnitude, very well may be."

Speaking on WNPR's Colin McEnroe show this afternoon, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the storm "could end up being a big event." A category 2 storm, which is what weather forecasters are predicting, could bring new power outages to the state on the order of about 100,000, he said.

Trees weakened by Sandy have already fallen today, and United Illuminating spokesman Michael West said about 1 percent of UI's customer base is in the dark due to this latest storm. But, he added, because so many crews are still working to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy, UI is actually better prepared than it otherwise would have been.

"Timing-wise, the fact that we already have crews on site actually puts us in a good position," West said. "We have more than a sufficient amount of crews already here. It would be different if somehow, this came next week, and we had already released everybody that we brought in."

West added that power crews have already sandbagged a few power substations in anticipation of flooding.

Norwalk

Norwalk city spokesman Tad Diesel said the city is still very much in recovery mode from Hurricane Sandy, with utility crews "patrolling streets to try to make sure that every street is passable and unimpeded by downed wires and branches."

So far, Diesel said, conditions look good. But as the weather worsens tonight, those crews may have to be taken off-line if high wind gusts and flooding make it unsafe for them to continue working.

Fairfield

In Fairfield, where the beach area was devastated by Sandy last week, close to 1,500 homes have been removed from UI's "count list" -- meaning they have no power but aren't considered in the utility's outage map. That is because those homes are uninhabitable at the moment, and they must be inspected before crews can determine if power can be restored there.

Fairfield's First Selectman Michael Tetreau said the town's biggest concern about this week's storm is that trees weakened by Sandy will fall and knock out more power. UI's outages that began today were concentrated in the Fairfield and Milford areas, according to their spokesperson.

"We lose power in Fairfield mostly because trees come down on power lines," Tetreau said. "And the rest of our town still has plenty of trees to come down, so we're very concerned about that."

FEMA conference call

In a conference call with the media today about Hurricane Sandy recovery, officials from the Red Cross and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) noted they were preparing for more damage control due to this week's nor'easter.

"We do urge people to stay safe and stay in place," said Charley Shimanski, senior vice president of disaster services for the Red Cross. He warned that the storm "means new power outages and coastal surges into the exact same areas that were already impacted."

"The Red Cross is actively getting ready for this storm," he said.

More outages

As of 3:35 p.m. today, UI's power outage map showed more than 3 percent of customers in Milford in the dark, as well as more than 7 percent of customers in Shelton. As for those served by Connecticut Light & Power, more than a third were out in Redding, and 6 percent had no lights in Monroe.

Mitch Gross, a spokesman for CL&P, said its crews are standing by in case of outages.

"We don't know what to expect. All we know is, we remain in storm restoration mode," Gross said. "It has carried on. There has been no down time. We just carry on. Just another test from mother nature."

This story is the result of a reporting partnership between WNPR and the Mirror. Click here for a radio version.

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