Connecticut may avoid a direct hit from Hurricane Sandy — the latest storm track has it hitting southern New Jersey — but the Nutmeg State could be the “most adversely impacted,” according to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
There are 362,000 people who live in Connecticut along Long Island Sound where storm surges could be as high as seven to 11 feet at the height of the storm. That’s double the storm surge experienced last year during Tropical Storm Irene, which destroyed several homes in the Cosey Beach section of East Haven. The storm surge during Irene was between 4 and 6 feet.
“The last time we saw anything like this was never,” Malloy said Sunday evening.
Earlier in the day he had compared the storm to the Hurricane of 1938, which famously knocked the Genius of Connecticut off the top of the state Capitol in Hartford and caused $38 million in property damage.
State offices, courthouses, and schools across Connecticut will be closed Monday as the state braces for what could be an equally historic storm. Malloy also signed an executive order extending the voter registration deadline from Tuesday, Oct. 30 to Thursday, Nov. 1, to give voters a little more time to register without risking life and limb.
Beyond that, Malloy wasn’t ready to speculate what would happen if the damage from the storm or power outages press up against Election Day on Nov. 6.
“We will cross that bridge when we come to it,” Malloy said.
It’s the duration of the storm that is causing the most angst for Malloy.
Over a period of 36 hours the state is expecting winds between 40 and 60 mph with gusts as high as 80 mph. There will be four tides during that period of time, with the worst one coming late Monday night.
“If you live in a coastal or low lying area and local officials have ordered evacuations, you need to listen to them. This is not a joke. This is a real warning of possible death as a result of drowning,” Malloy said.
“This is the largest threat to human life our state has experienced in anyone’s lifetime,” Malloy said.
President Barack Obama granted Malloy’s request for a pre-landfall declaration late Sunday evening. The declaration makes it easier for a full disaster declaration in the future and helps the state receive reimbursement for damages caused by the storm.
Meanwhile, officials from the state’s two largest utility companies, Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating, said residents need to prepare for power outages.
CL&P Senior Vice President of Emergency Operations William Quinlan said his company, which covers 149 cities and towns, is prepared for 300,000 to more than 600,000 power outages.
CL&P was widely criticized after last year’s storms when it planned for 100,000 losing power when more than 800,000 customers lost power in each of the storms.
The utility, which was slow to call for outside help last time, made a request for additional 2,000 linemen on Thursday. By Sunday afternoon it had about 1,060 additional linemen in the state ready to be deployed.
“We are making good progress on getting 2,000 line workers,” he said.
CL&P expects to have 550 tree workers in state by Monday.
Substations for CL&P in Stamford and Branford are at risk of flooding and sandbags and pumps are being used at the facilities. They also are looking at providing alternate sources of power in those regions if they have to de-energize those facilities.
John Prete, senior vice president at United Illuminating, thanked Connecticut residents in advance for their sacrifices.
“It’s a scary proposition,” Prete said. “We will restore as quickly as we can.”
He said they will not send workers up in the air to work on the electrical lines until it’s safe for them to be up there. That means residents may be out of power for an extended period of time.
United Illuminating has 290 line workers, which is more than it had at the peak of Irene last year.
United Illuminating services 17 towns in the New Haven area and along the shoreline.