‘Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse’: Residents Flock Downtown for WiFi, Phone Access

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Krystyna Blakeslee, a West Road resident who moved to New Canaan two years ago, lost power Tuesday afternoon with more than three-quarters of the town.

Krystyna Blakeslee on Aug. 5, 2020. Credit: Michael Dinan

A lawyer, Blakeslee made her way Wednesday to Town Hall and used its WiFi for work until about midnight, sitting in her car.

“It’s par for the course for 2020, I feel like,” Blakeslee said with a smile Thursday. “Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse.”

She joined hundreds of residents who are without power or home Internet or phone access following the powerful winds of a tropical storm that knocked down trees and limbs in New Canaan earlier this week, closing roads and causing widespread outages. 

Out front of Town Hall on Aug. 5, 2020. Credit: Michael Dinan

During the day, downtown New Canaan now is overflowing with motorists looking to park and with people sitting on the grass or steps outside Town Hall and New Canaan Library trying to work and communicate with each other during an outage that’s coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blakeslee said her cell service at home became “much more spotty than usual” after the storm hit. (First Selectman Kevin Moynihan has said Verizon plans to help restore much of its service via a truck antenna.)

Asked what’s the hardest part about the outages, Blakeslee said, “The hardest part really is just hoping it doesn’t rain and finding a place to work.”

Juliana McKenna of New Canaan on Aug. 5, 2020. Credit: Michael Dinan

For Juliana McKenna, the hardest part about this week’s outages has been disconnection from others.

“We are already unconnected with the pandemic, but then you can’t connect electronically to your family, it’s just very isolating,” she said from the stone retaining wall outside the library’s front lawn, where residents sat on fold-out chairs, using the organization’s WiFi and makeshift charging stations for their mobile devices.

The front lawn of New Canaan Library on Aug. 5, 2020. Credit: Michael Dinan

Asked for her thoughts on the outages, McKenna said, “It shows how reliant we are on technology.”

A self-employed bookkeeper, McKenna said she hasn’t been able to work and earn income since the power went out.

“And it seems like it’s a long time for it to be out,” she said. “And I live near town, so usually we get power quicker.”

McKenna added, “We are being challenged.”

Nina Laing and Alyssa Marcella on Aug. 5, 2020. Credit: Michael Dinan

Nina Laing and Alyssa Marcella said they came to the library’s grounds to use WiFi since they lost power at home. Laing said it’s been difficult communicating even with her own family amid the outages. 

Marcella said, “When my mom is out and I’m out, it’s hard to get in touch with her.”

10 thoughts on “‘Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse’: Residents Flock Downtown for WiFi, Phone Access

  1. Quality cell service and WiFi that is strong and reliable at all times is a necessity, not a luxury. If New Canaan does not provide both people need to consider other locations.

  2. Day three and I’ve yet to even see an Eversource truck on the west side of town, or anywhere really for that matter. It’s dead quiet at night, with no one apparently working. Dangerous downed trees are still littering the overhead writers and impeding traffic. Are there any updates, because it is starting to feel like this outage will be going on for a long time…

  3. It would be helpful if our town leadership could talk with EverSourse and give us some updates – any updates. We are not mushrooms. EverSource was obviously unprepared for this storm. Combining a price increase with an incompetent storm response is not acceptable. In another week, maybe we should start to organize and all hold back our payments for a couple months. I’m sure EverSource would love that.

    • Maybe we should deduct the cost of lost food and lost work from our payments. Catch-22, though – if their costs go up, they just raise the rates. Maybe one reason the electric company hasn’t chipped away at burying lines over the years is because they don’t really care about costs of an outage. They just present their costs to the regulators as reasons why they need to increase their charges to us.

  4. Once again we are faced with the absurd state of cellular service in New Canaan. It is time we dispense with the NIMBY nonsense of pseudo-science objections to building the cell towers that have been approved in this town. The Soundview Lane tower should be installed ASAP. Other should be built expediently. I have to drive two miles from my home off Valley Road to get cell service. It is unsafe and unacceptable.

  5. The messaging from town leadership seems to be one of acceptance and that we should all be good soldiers and accept that we may not have power until next Tuesday. Everyone should just dutifully carry their computers to the library and sit in the hot sun for 8 hours getting their work done. It’s not acceptable. We need to hear that town leadership is just as dismayed as its residents and is doing everything in their power to get this fixed and hold Eversource accountable. We need a plan instead of flying by the seat of our pants.

  6. We need cell service! It’s is 2020! I had a tree down with live wires that blocked an exit on our lane and had no access to any sort of communication. Luckily no one was hurt, but if something terrible would have happened I would have no way of exiting the property or phoning/texting for help.

    • I don’t think the town realizes that many are without phone service. On the robo calls that I was able to hear at my office, town officials were advising to call 911 if there was an emergency. Useless advice if your phone is dead. Its time to end the ongoing debate and fix town cell phone problem once and for all. It’s truly a matter of life and death.

  7. With no internet or cell service I am unable to hear important messages such as where to go for showers or wifi and how long buildings will be open each day.
    Like so many New Canaanites, I am only able to get important messages by going to Town Hall every day ( including Saturday and Sunday).

    With serious medical issues I am unable to dial 9-1-1, if needed, from my home or property. In an emergency, my family would have to drive to EMS for help.

  8. The fact that our town still does not have reliable cell service on a good day, let alone during emergency situations, is absolutely unfathomable to me. The days that cell providers advertise with, “can you hear me? Can you hear me now?’ are long gone; but not in New Canaan! PLEASE, selectpeople, FIX this issue!

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