Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is confident that state emergency management officials and Connecticut utility providers are doing all they can to the affects of which are expected to hit the state as early as Sunday night.
During a press conference Friday afternoon on the state’s preparedness for the hurricane Malloy also underscored the importance of the public’s readiness for the storm and said residents should understand that Sandy, depending on where the hurricane makes landfall, could bring heavy rain and winds for a sustained period.
“We’re talking about a (storm) delivery timeframe of substantially longer than perhaps what people are used to,” Malloy told a gathering of reporters outside his offices at the state capitol. “This is not a 12-hour storm. This could be a 36-hour storm with 40-plus mile an hour winds.” Residents should also plan for a minimum of seven inches of rain, he said.
The storm’s anticipated long duration means residents who do lose power could be out for a long time because officials won’t endanger work crews by sending them out into the storm, he added.
“That’s why it’s important that people understand the timeframe of this storm.”
Malloy met with reporters after he held a noontime briefing with about two dozen representatives of utility companies, including CL&P, United Illuminating and AT&T, as well as members of his Department of Emergency Services & Public Protection. He said all of the officials have assured him that they are doing everything they can to prepare for the storm. He also said he believes utility companies are also much better prepared for this storm than they were for Hurricane Irene in August of 2011 and the October snowstorm that followed.
Those storms devastated many areas of the state and each cut power to more than 700,000 homes and businesses. CL&P came under harsh criticism, from all quarters of the private and public sector, following both storms for its poor planning before, during and after the storms that left some in the dark for up to 10 days.
Malloy said he is partially activating the state’s Emergency Operations Center at the State Armory in Hartford on Saturday morning and will hold additional briefings there this weekend. He said he has not activated the Connecticut National Guard but has put its leaders on notice that he may call upon it.
Bill Quinlan, CL&P Senior Vice President of Emergency Preparedness, reiterated that the company learned from the mistakes of last year’s storms and is hiring an additional 2,000 linemen and tree contractors from the Midwest. He said he expects those workers to be in the state by Sunday, ready for the storm’s aftermath. The crews will be stationed in four regional staging areas around the state, including ones in Bristol, Fairfield and at the Waterford Speedbowl.
Officials from United Illuminating, which provides electricity to towns in southwestern and western Connecticut, said they are hiring additional linemen and tree workers and are bringing in a total of 600 additional workers who will help assess damage, repair lines and remove trees.
Quinlan, Malloy and UI officials also said they are holding regular conference calls with municipal officials to keep them abreast of the hurricane response plans. Quinlan said that since last year, CL&P has undertaken a massive overhaul of its technology and communication systems and are now focused on three key issues when a storm of this magnitude hits: Keeping tabs of where work crews are, what they are working on and when they will complete that work and restore power.
After Hurricane Irene municipal officials blasted CL&P for poor communication with town leaders and failure to properly deploy their work crews.
Officials with AT&T, one of the state’s largest cell phone providers, said they have installed new generators at cell towers around the state and have beefed up backup batteries there. Malloy said the company also is bringing in some 1,000 telephone poles to prepare in advance for ones that might be damaged by Irene’s winds. If power goes out, he said residents should text on their cell phones instead of making calls because texting places less demand on cell transmissions.