Hundreds Of Thousands Lose Power As Isaias Blows Through Connecticut
Power outages were reported across Connecticut after Tropical Storm Isaias ravaged the state with high winds Tuesday. Downed trees blocked roads and brought down power lines in many towns with winds as high as 70 mph. Utilities say it may take several days for full restoration of power.
More than half a million electric customers were without power across the state -- both United Illuminating and Eversource said around a third of their customers statewide lost power. As of early Wednesday morning more than 680,000 remain in the dark.
The damage was spread throughout the state from Thompson down to Greenwich, but Eversource spokesman Frank Poirot said the southwest corner was hit the hardest.
“Instead of limbs coming down on wires it’s more entire trees coming down on multiple sections of wire," he said Wednesday morning.
He said damage assessments are ongoing, but the early focus is on getting roads open so first responders are able to reach any emergencies.
He said Isaias appears to be one of the worst storms to hit Connecticut in terms of damage to the grid.
“I’m thinking of those October snow storms as well as certainly a hurricane or two that swept through the state. So, it’s way up there," Poirot said. "It’s probably gonna rank among one of those historical benchmarks. “
A 66 year old Naugatuck man was killed by a falling tree as he was trying to clear debris from his car Tuesday afternoon, the only known fatality from the storm so far.
During a Tuesday afternoon media briefing, Gov. Ned Lamont said the town of Westport appeared to be one of those hit the hardest by the tropical storm. At one point 90% of the town was without power, and the Merritt Parkway had to be shut down in several spots.
Lamont said shelters that have been used for COVID-related reasons appear to be the only ones that were needed. “People have been able to shelter at home, which is much safer,” the governor said.
Lamont said because the storm was fast-moving, there was less rain and flooding than with Superstorm Sandy.
He said there will be no need for an emergency declaration of a disaster area. But the governor urged residents to continue to stay off the roads, as emergency crews work to clear downed trees and restore power.
In New Haven, the winds were strong enough to obscure visibility and damage buildings, making it hard for pedestrians to walk downtown.
The state of Connecticut closed state parks, forests and campgrounds at noon Tuesday in advance of the storm. Outdoor COVID-19 testing locations also likely were affected and residents were urged to check with their site before making a trip.
Several towns along the Connecticut shoreline closed their beaches as the storm approached, but that didn’t stop onlookers from daring to check out the ocean.
At least a dozen people made it onto the beach in Milford despite the conditions.
“We were intrigued -- had to see what was going on,” Chris Lovelett said Tuesday afternoon. “What do we got, 8-, 9-, 7-foot swells right now? This is pretty incredible. You don’t see it all the time, and it was worth taking a look at.”
The state’s Emergency Operations Center, already activated during the COVID-19 pandemic, also took on the job of monitoring the storm and managing any problems that arose.
Shoreline towns were in full preparation mode Tuesday morning.
In Milford, Mayor Ben Blake said his team has to manage 17 miles of coastline, the longest of any Connecticut town along the shore. Public works crews were busy removing trash cans, flags and other items along the shorefront, as well as ensuring catch basins and storm drains were clear to carry away any storm surge.
“We have deployed barricades so that if some streets are flooded, we can close those off so that folks don’t get stuck,” Blake told Connecticut Public Radio.
He and other municipal leaders were also dealing with trying to make storm preparations alongside the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. That complicates efforts like setting up shelters, which now must accommodate social distancing measures.
“It seems like we’re getting kicked when we’re already down,” said Blake.
This post has been updated.
Copyright 2020 Connecticut Public Radio