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Mon November 7, 2011
Day 10 Without Power, And Local Officials Aren't Happy
The freak October snow storm brought down trees and power lines across the state is now ten days old. But as WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports, tens of thousands of customers still have no electricity -- and frustration is growing. Walter Tobias came to Simsbury Town Hall to ask for help. The 78-year-old has no power at home, and his sick wife is stuck in a rehab center. "Because of the storm, Medicare extended her stay there because she was supposed to come out before this time. They extended it today. I have no heat in the house to bring her home. That means every day that she's there now at rehab, it comes out of my pocket. You know, I'm very frustrated, so I come down here to vent my feelings."
Tobias isn't the only one stopping by the office of Mary Glassman, Simsbury's first selectman. She's seeing a constant stream of residents who want to know one thing: When will the power come back on? The problem is, she doesn't know. This morning, Glassman was on a conference call with state government officials, the head of the electric company, and other municipal leaders when she let them know her patience had long since run out. "We want to know when power is coming back, we want to know how many crews are in our town, we want to know a timeline for restoration, we want to door knock those folks, and tell them they're not going to have power till Thanksgiving, we're going to send them to a hotel and we're going to send you the bill. So we need some answers, we are 17,000 people in the Farmington Valley without power and we want answers today." The cover of wet, heavy snow is mostly melted now -- but limbs from the trees that the snow snapped still litter Simsbury. Glassman says her town still has roads that emergency crews can't get through, its schools are still closed, and its emergency shelter has served over 1,500 people.
This is unfortunate familiar ground for Connecticut. This summer, Tropical Storm Irene battered the state and left much of its eastern and coastal communities without power for a week. This time around, the outage map is flip-flopped -- and the suburbs around Hartford are suffering the worst of the blow. It's also familiar ground for Jeff Butler, president and chief operating officer for Connecticut Light and Power, by far the state's largest power company. Each day, he faces the news media and talks about the number of crews -- both from Connecticut and out of state -- working on the job. He's provided a stream of sometimes unsatisfying explanations to the question of why the power is out. He also failed to meet a promise to restore power to 99 percent of the state by yesterday. Now, he says power should be completely back by Wednesday. "What I'm trying to get people to -- or make sure people understand is there's a lot challenges out there, there's a lot of damage out there. Once again, this was the worst storm to hit this state ever. I know that does not make people feel better that have been out of power for eight days."
Q: How are they going to believe this? Why give a deadline at this point when you keep missing all of them? Butler: The large portion of our state we did hit 99 percent. Glassman: I don't know what's going on. We don't trust what they're saying. Mary Glassman says people in Simsbury are just looking for answers. "The fact that they would come to our meeting this morning and have told us specifically that we would not have crews assigned to some of our hardest hit neighborhoods is absolutely outrageous. It's outrageous. It's unacceptable." Governor Dannel Malloy says it's unacceptable, too. He's bringing in James Lee Witt, the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to lead an investigation into Connecticut Light and Power's storm response. That report is due by early December -- hopefully before the next big winter storm.