The utility company responsible for power restoration has communicated poorly with town officials since high winds from a tropical storm struck Tuesday, taking out more than three-quarters of homes here, according to New Canaan’s highest elected official.
Eversource in the hours that followed the brief but powerful storm in New Canaan also didn’t “cut and clear” local roads as it typically does, so that emergency vehicles had access to all residences, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said Thursday morning during a press briefing.
“Our biggest problem with Eversource is they don’t coordinate with us,” Moynihan said during the briefing, held via Zoom and attended by NewCanaanite.com and Hearst Connecticut. “They don’t tell us where they’re sending resources. We finally got resources yesterday at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.”
“The coordination with Eversource is not good, compared to what we have had in some past storms,” Moynihan added. “I don’t know whether COVID is really affecting the way Eversource operates. But they certainly have been uncoordinated and bureaucratic and certainly not sharing accurate information with us. And we have complained.”
Reached by NewCanaanite.com, Eversource said in a statement that “line and tree crews are working around-the-clock to repair the widespread damage to the electric system caused by Tropical Storm Isaias Tuesday afternoon.”
“While adhering to strict COVID-19 pandemic safety protocols, utility crews from Canada, Michigan and Massachusetts are assisting in the major restoration effort—with additional outside crews arriving in the state over the next 24 hours,” the company said. “The energy company is focused on clearing downed trees and branches in order to open up access to blocked roads. As of 11:30 a.m., crews have restored power to more than 332,000 customers since the storm began, while approximately 533,000 Eversource customers in Connecticut remain without power. The company will provide an estimate of when it expects to have power restored to a majority of affected customers later today.”
As of 12 p.m. Thursday, 70% of New Canaan remained without power. The figure is down from nearly 90% Wednesday evening. Moynihan has said full restoration here could take several days.
Nearly all roads in New Canaan now are clear for motor vehicle traffic. Downed trees and branches, as well as utility lines and infrastructure, often can be seen mixed up with yellow police tape in piles on the side of the road. Several traffic lights are out, including at major intersections such as Farm Road and South Avenue, now a four-way stop.
Dozens of residents are camped outside Town Hall and New Canaan Library, sitting on the ground or on folded chairs to use WiFi.
Moynihan said the storm damage is worse than it had been in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Yet the response from the utility company—at the time it was Connecticut Light & Power—is worse than in the past, he said.
The town has “never before seen where they [Eversource] come in and they are not doing ‘cut and clear’ first because we have to be able to open roads and it’s really life and death,” Moynihan said during the briefing.
“We cannot get a fire truck or ambulance to people. That’s the first thing you do, making it safe. And they just didn’t do that that time, for reasons we just don’t understand. And last night I was downtown and I was out and I saw seven trucks arrive and stage themselves at the high school. Of course they didn’t tell us they were there.”
Moynihan said he’d been on a call with other Fairfield County mayors and that the Eversource response has been widely pooh-poohed. He said the governor is asking state authorities to investigate whether the company was sufficiently prepared to respond.
“Clearly it’s major damage image and also Eversource did not perform well this time,” Moynihan said.
Asked what he’s hearing from residents, Moynihan said that many people are wondering “how can this happen in a first-world country.”
“Thy don’t realize that trees cause as much damage as Sandy, even though the duration of the storm is short,” he said.
An added complication in this case was the loss of Verizon antennas, Moynihan said, though that problem is being addressed.
“They [Verizon] proactively contacted us yesterday and said they would send a satellite truck, which they have done, and they are going to stand up that antenna today and put Verizon back in operation,” he said.
This page on the town website include a map of closed roads and information on contacting Eversource.