(Updated 9:28 p.m.) Many have been without power now for seven days and while they’re doing their best to cope with the situation many feel forgotten by Connecticut Light & Power.
Dozens of residents came to Sterling’s Town Hall Sunday to tell Gov. Dannel P. Malloy about what they’ve experienced since Tropical Storm Irene hit the state a week ago.
Malloy, the first governor to visit the town since Ella Grasso in 1978, said he’s unhappy with the utility company’s response too.
“Listen, I’m unhappy as you should be unhappy with the response of the utility companies,” Malloy told the crowd. “It’s been slow and hard. I certainly understand that. What I‘m committed to is making sure that we learn from this experience.”
The town of Sterling with a little more than 3,000 people had been completely without power until Friday.
“Friday was the first time we saw a utility truck come to town,” Lee Shippee said. “We had no 911 service for at least 36 hours after the storm.”
Shippee still has no power, but her friend June Bonner got hers back yesterday. The two have been making due by showering at Plainfield High School and using pond and pool water to flush the toilets.
First Selectman Russell Gray said he wasn’t making excuses for Connecticut Light & Power, but Sterling just happens to be at the end of the electrical grid and it took a little longer than it should have to get here.
About 26 trucks rolled into town on Friday, almost five days after the storm hit.
One man said he was trapped until Wednesday because of downed wires at the end of his street.
Sterling Emergency Management Director Carl Kvist said they let Connecticut Light & Power know about that problem on Sunday, but the road wasn’t cleared until Wednesday. He said the town cleared up all the debris and tree branches it could and had most of the streets cleared by Monday, but was not allowed to clear certain areas where wires were down.
Malloy said he asked the state to give him an assessment of how wooded the state was back in 1938, 1955, and 1985, the last time hurricane’s hit the state.
He said the state is twice as wooded as it was in 1955 and three times as wooded as it was in 1938. He said the state is going to have to decide how many trees it actually wants next to roadways and how many trees it actually wants next to power lines.
Kvist also said they had trouble getting the meals and water provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and distributed by the National Guard into town. They finally were able to get a shipment of food, water, and ice which will be distributed until 4 p.m. at the fire house on Main Street.
But even when the food did arrive, Christine Orsini, who lives in a very rural area of town said she didn’t know about it because the transistor radio doesn’t pick up the local AM stations. She said the town should have been able to communicate better with residents to let them know when supplies arrived.
“We had no power, no water. Thank God we have great neighbors and a lot of alcohol,” Orsini joked.
Many residents said they had to travel to Johnston, Rhode Island to find ice and many have tried to be as optimistic as they can about the situation, but after seven days without power even that is getting difficult.
As for rumors Connecticut Light & Power will be passing on the estimated cost of damage unto customers, Malloy said that’s just a rumor and state officials will be monitoring that situation very closely.
On Saturday Connecticut Light & Power announced Northeast Utilities Foundation will be making a $1 million donation to the Red Cross to help with the clean up and will be waiving late fees on electric bills.
But for residents like Darlene Gannon that’s not good enough.
“I think we’re looking for an apology from CL&P,” Gannon said. “And not in the form of where they’re going to donate $1 million to the Red Cross and we don’t have to pay a late fee. I think they need to acknowledge that they missed us.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, who was in Sterling with Malloy, said after some conference calls with local officials from eastern Connecticut, CL&P realized it had to split the eastern district into two pieces because of its large geographic area and the number of lines that were down.
Courtney said on Wednesday they realized just having one person in charge of the entire area was impossible.
“We’re the ‘Quiet Corner’, but sometimes it feels like we’re the forgotten corner,” one woman told Malloy.
Sunday was Malloy’s second visit to eastern Connecticut. He reminded residents that the entire state was impacted by the storm.
Rep. Mae Flexer, D-Killingly, said it means a lot to the residents to see a governor here in this part of the state. She said he spoke honestly with folks and they really appreciate it.
She said as of Friday morning Sterling was the only town in Connecticut with absolutely no power, so it goes without saying they felt neglected.
On Saturday President Barack Obama issued an emergency declaration for five of the state’s eight counties, which will allow homeowners impacted by the storm to recover uninsured losses. The declaration for the remaining three counties of Hartford, Tolland, and Windham was issued on Sunday. The declaration covers all eight counties including Fairfield, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven and New London Counties.
Malloy said people may qualify for reimbursements for the amount of money they paid to run generators to the amount of food that was spoiled after the power went out.
The declaration will allow individuals, as well as local governments, to tap into federal funds for storm remediation.
“By the end of the day today, FEMA teams will have been to all 169 cities and towns in the state, and we will continue to press for public assistance in the remaining three counties in the state,“ Malloy said. “This storm was unprecedented in terms of the amount and scope of damage, and I’m pleased the President has agreed and made available these federal funds and services.”
“I am gratified that President Obama and our federal partners recognize just how damaging this storm was to Connecticut residents, our infrastructure, and our economy,” Malloy said Sunday following the declaration for the remaining three counties.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will tour parts of East Haven Monday with Malloy.