Hot Weekend, No Power for Many

Eversource, United Illum. Under Pressure

Dave Mager
August 07, 2020 - 9:20 pm
One of many huge tree limbs grounded by Tropical Storm Isaias, Hampton, CT

Dave Mager, WTIC News

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Everybody's a critic.

Connecticut's leading electric utility, Eversource, is hearing it from all sides on the fourth day since Tropical Storm Isaias dumped heavy, splintered lumber onto vulnerable power lines across the state.

As of 9 p.m. Friday, Eversource reported 331,000 homes and businesses still in the dark. United Illuminating, dominant in Southwest Connecticut, reported 33,000 outages.

Even as spokespeople for Eversource work overtime to deflect the blows, government officials and residents from Hartford to small towns like Scotland have issues with how the utility has handled the crisis. 

The "Monday morning quarterbacking," as it was described by Gov. Ned Lamont, covers everything from the company's preparation for the long-forecast storm stystem to its response since, which is getting "two thumbs down" from many.

Friday afternoon, WTIC Radio News visited two small towns that share a dubious distinction: almost every building has been without power since Tuesday, when the storm ripped through.

Gary Greenberg, First Selectman in the heavily wooded Windham County town of Scotland (pop. about 1,700), says he generally defends utility companies when constituents air inevitable complaints.

Not this time.

"I would call Eversource's performance on this particular storm an epic failure," says Greenberg, "Communication's been terrible... it's hard to know what they've done. It's just been mass chaos."

Greenberg says information is at a premium, and little of it is coming from the company. Under the circumstances, he's become an amateur utility outage sleuth (some of the "evidence" provided by a friendly Eversource line worker).

"As near as I can piece together, the line that feeds us from Willimantic somewhere down the road is gone, and that, as I understand it, is one of the reasons we don't have internet or phone."

A few miles away, Hampton (pop. about 2,000) First Selectman Alan Cahill was more charitable towards Eversource, saying, "I have a contact person. We talk several times a day. He was compromised also, where he's from, he couldn't get out of his house... it's tough communicating."

On restoration, Cahill is preparing Hampton residents for the long haul. "I'm told we have as much damage as (2012 Superstorm) Sandy; because of the COVID, we have less out-of-state resources coming in to assist us. So it's going to be a while."

His greatest concern is for the elderly. He says Hampton "is a very mature town as far as our demographic goes."

Friday afternoon, Eversource issued this statement:

"Eversource’s army of line and tree crews, including hundreds of out-of-state utility workers from as far away as Canada, Michigan, llinois, Ohio and Indiana, continues making solid progress restoring power to thousands of customers in Connecticut after Tropical Storm Isaias. While adhering to strict COVID-19 pandemic safety protocols, crews have restored power to approximately 552,000 homes and businesses and expects to have the vast majority of the remaining 404,000 customers without power back on line by Tuesday at 11:59 p.m., with many being restored before sooner. "