With Hurricane Sandy expected to make landfall on the East Coast in a few days state, local and utility officials are gearing up their emergency response plans.
Forecasters currently aren’t sure if Sandy will hit in the mid-Atlantic states or New England, but at CL&P, which took a public drumming last year after two major storms cut power to hundreds of thousands of state residents for days, the utility is already preparing, and urging its customers to prepare, for the possibility of widespread power outages.
The utility has sent a request to utility companies and contractors in the Midwest for help and is seeking 2,000 workers to come to Connecticut by Sunday night, said Mitch Gross, CL&P’s spokesman.
He said the utility is doing everything it can to prepare, but “there’s no way to prevent widespread outages from a storm like this.”
Emergency personnel for the town of Simsbury announced Thursday morning that they were taking steps to prepare for the storm.
CL&P, which provides power to more than a million residences and businesses, is warning its residential customers to prepare a home emergency kit and has begun reaching out to local officials to update them on how the company will respond if there are widespread power outages.
The utility, Gross said, learned valuable lessons after Hurricane Irene last August and the October Nor’easter. Each storm cut power to more than 700,000 customers, some for more than a week. In the months that followed the company beefed up its liaison program with towns, as well as tree cutting and tree trimming near utility lines.
“This past year has been all about improving our storm response,” Gross said.
"We’re closely monitoring weather forecasts and preparing for high winds and heavy rain that can devastate the electric system and cause power outages,” said Bill Quinlan, CL&P’s senior vice president of emergency preparedness. “…We stand ready to respond as quickly and safely as possible. While we hope for the best, we all need to prepare for the worst.”
At United Illuminating, which serves some 324,000 customers in southwestern and western Connecticut, the utility also is seeking additional workers to help out in the event Hurricane Sandy hits the state hard.
Michael West, the UI’s spokesman, said the company hopes to have an additional 300 contractors to augment its staff of 100 work crews.
“We’ll just continue to watch this storm and try to be as prepared as we can,” West said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office also issued a press release Thursday urging state residents to be aware of the storm’s progress and to be prepared if it hits the state.
“Just as the state is monitoring and preparing, the public should do the same,” Malloy said. “Some models predict that Sandy may move onshore somewhere in New England early next week. Although we are not certain the storm will impact the state, we need to be prepared. That means everyone, especially the state’s utility companies.”
The state’s Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security is monitoring the storm and is prepared to coordinate any needed state response, officials said. DEMHS is also participating in National Weather Service conference calls to get the latest information on the storm’s track and is sending out regular updates to all municipalities and tribal nations, state officials said.
DEMHS is communicating with CL&P and UI.
“Although hurricanes are unpredictable, this storm has the potential to impact Connecticut and we need to be prepared,” said DEMHS Deputy Commissioner William P. Shea. “Because a shift in the track of the hurricane of just a few miles can have a significant impact on the state, it is important to stay informed by listening to TV and radio and heed the warnings of public safety officials.”
CL&P and the governor’s office offered the following for preparing a home power outage kit:
Flashlights with spare batteries
- A battery-operated radio or TV
- First-aid kit and medications
- Canned, freeze-dried or dehydrated foods
- A manual can opener
- Bottled water
- Baby or pet supplies (if needed)
- Important phone numbers