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Gov. Lamont visits Bristol, Cheshire to tour damage from Isaias; some outages remain

After the storm, over 700,000 people were left in the dark.

BRISTOL, Conn. — Governor Ned Lamont continued his town tours throughout the state Monday, walking a neighborhood in Bristol. Bristol sustained damage all over town and had power outages for 55 percent of residents after the tropical storm hit, that number is down to one percent today.  “Give a shout out to the folks doing the work, give a shout out to that guy who is climbing the pole,” said Lamont, “no need to turn up the heat, it’s 95 degrees.”

In Bristol, Lamont's first stop Monday, 0.87% of customers are still without power. Gov. Lamont spoke about Eversource’s response saying, “we should have been pre-positioning people a lot earlier.”

Bristol Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said, “this was every neighborhood not just a path, every neighborhood had  damage.” Lamont and city leaders toured Harper Court, an area with multiple trees and power lines down. The Governor, again, took aim at Eversource. “We should’ve pre-positioned people a lot earlier,” he added.

Last week, as Gov. Lamont went to see damage in other parts of the state, he made his frustrations with Eversource and United Illuminating (UI) known following their post-Isaias response efforts. 

After the storm, over 700,000 people were left in the dark, and hundreds of thousands remained in the dark in the days after until this past weekend.

As of Monday morning, the number of outages between Eversource and UI reached just over 90,000.

Outage outrage

The power restoration comes as enormous pressure has been put on the companies from those critical on what was perceived as a sluggish response.

First Selectman Jim Marpe (R-Westport) said Westport just experienced one of the worst storm-related incidents in its history, and he calls Eversource's response "woefully inadequate.

"At one point, we had over 200 roads that were blocked," Marpe said. "We’re down to maybe 100 now, but there are people, residents that we cannot get to, houses that we cannot get to, with public safety equipment."

And he says the town needs Eversource to assist in identifying where wires are still live.

"Our problem has been, frankly, information and communication with Eversource," Marpe added. "I have no notion of what exactly they are providing us."

RELATED: On Day 5 of no power, people in Glastonbury just trying to make do

Lamont said he was shocked how Eversource said they would try to give his office a town by town breakout of how they're going to get communities electricity resolved tomorrow.

"Tomorrow?," Lamont asked. "You can’t even tell us when my town might get electricity until tomorrow?"

Earlier in the day, Gov. Lamont and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) surveyed Danbury, with longtime Mayor Mark Boughton (R-Danbury).

"It’s been a very, very slow response, probably the worst response I’ve ever seen in 20 years as mayor of the city," Mayor Boughton said.

State Rep. David Arconti (D-Danbury), who is the House Chairman of the Energy and Technology Committee, said there is likely to be a public hearing on Eversource and United Illuminating's poor response during the week of August 17.

"We’re also going to be drafting a letter requesting that the CEO, Mr. Judge, come down and also participate in this public hearing," said Arconti.

He is referring to Eversource Chairman, President, and CEO, Jim Judge, who refused to meet with the media after a closed-door session with Lamont on Wednesday.

Eversource's response

A "vast majority" of customers are expected to have power restored by Tuesday at 11:59 p.m., explained  Mitch Gross with Eversource during an interview on the FOX61 Morning Show. 

“We are pushing as hard as we can to accomplish that goal,” said Gross, noting there are 2,200 line crews on the job Monday morning. 

Addressing how customers can communicate with Eversource, Gross explained if customers haven’t called in an outage, they should do so. If they have called, Gross said Eversource has the call in their system. The power company also has teams of people at the town and state-level monitoring social media. 

“Crews are working as hard as they can,” Gross continued.  

When asked who will be shouldering the cost of these repairs, Gross said they understand everyone’s concern and they understand there is a process to the bill payments, adding that everything goes through state regulators. Gross stressed that before they can get to reviews and investigators, they have to get customers back online. 

Eversource has established satellite command centers are located in Berlin, Cheshire, Madison, Norwalk, Tolland, and Torrington. 

RELATED: Tropical Storm Isaias in CT: 91,500 customers still without power nearly a week after Isaias

“These satellite command centers put our crews and materials closer to the areas where they’re needed most, providing us greater flexibility to more quickly deploy the massive crew resources that we’ve brought into Connecticut,” said Craig Hallstrom, Eversource's President of Regional Electric Operations. “We remain grateful to our customers for their patience during these unprecedented times of COVID-19, and we will not rest until every customer has power.”

“We are continuing to identify and bring in additional crews and resources in order to safely restore our impacted customers as quickly as possible. We have made good progress to address the destruction left by Tropical Storm Isaias, but we still have some work ahead of us to restore the remaining customers,” said Tony Marone, UI’s President, and CEO.

UI employees are working with hundreds of contractors and mutual assistance personnel hailing from across the country, including Alabama, Maine, Mississippi, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Gov. Lamont tweeted Saturday asking Connecticut residents to not " take the frustration out in the linesman, who are working tirelessly.

President of Regional Electric Operations Craig Hallstrom had addressed the criticized response effort last Thursday.

He said the crews are working tirelessly to restore power, noting, “I'd be remiss if I didn’t give a shoutout to our crews. They left their families and are working 24-7.” 

He said at the time that there were “north of 700” crews out working on restoring power across the state with 500 to 600 wire down crews and damage assessors in place. There was also an expected 1,200 crew members set to arrive in Connecticut between last Thursday and Friday. 

Hallstrom said during the first 24 hours after the storm, they focused on safety for the public and crews and work with communities to unblock roads, allowing for emergency services to pass through.  

The press conference had come after Connecticut’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) officially announced they will be investigating Eversource and United Illuminating's response to Tropical Storm Isaias. The announcement came after Governor Ned Lamont, critical of Eversource's response efforts, called for an investigation. 

Gov. Lamont had asked PURA a list of requests:

  • Consider whether the utilities were adequately prepared and have the resources they need to handle large weather events
  • Evaluate their response and whether it met regulatory and statutory requirements
  • Determine whether their investments went towards their outage response system
  • Determine whether civil penalties should be applied

PURA said they will examine, in detail, measures each company took in preparation for this storm, which caused widespread power outages and lengthy service restoration timelines, as well as reasons behind the clear misstep in response.

Emergency declaration

Gov. Lamont announced Friday morning that he was notified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that the state has received the approval of a presidential emergency declaration in response to damage from Tropical Storm Isaias. 

Gov. Lamont had said late Thursday night that he spoke via telephone with President Donald Trump to explain the reasons why the state needed the approval and urged the president to expedite the process.

With the approval of an emergency declaration, the state will request direct federal assistance to supplement the ongoing state and local efforts to protect public health and safety during the crisis, including certain equipment and other resources.

RELATED: FEMA approves presidential emergency declaration for Connecticut in response Tropical Storm Isaias

In a press conference in Danbury Friday afternoon, Gov. Lamont said generators were being shipped in. He cited 2011 as a lesson learned that after 3-4 days with a generator going, they will stop working and institutions will suffer like nursing homes, government offices, and things for the public health like wastewater filtrations. 

“Approval of this declaration is very much appreciated as hundreds of thousands in our state remain without power days after the storm made landfall in Connecticut,” Governor Lamont said. “We’re continuing to work with our federal and local counterparts to assess the damage and may seek additional federal support during the response, recovery, and rebuilding process.”