(Updated 10:02 a.m.) United Illuminating is projecting it will be able to restore power to 95 percent of its more than 107,900 customers without power by midnight Monday, Nov. 5. Officials from Connecticut Light & Power said its 250,000 customers without power will be able to turn the lights on by Monday or Tuesday next week if it gets the 2,000 linemen it’s requested.
CL&P Senior Vice President of Emergency Operations William Quinlan said he expects only 2 percent of his customers to be without power on Tuesday, Nov. 6. But those projections will only hold if he’s able to get 2,000 linemen into the state.
“If I didn’t feel confident we’d be able to get the 2,000 linemen it wouldn’t be a planning assumption,” Quinlan said. “I do think we’re going to make very strong progress to our target of 2,000 over the next several days.”
There are 1,080 additional linemen in the state, but Quinlan said over the next several days those numbers will be boosted by 300. On Wednesday he gave the impression those additional 300 linemen were already in the state.
In addition to the resources, Quinlan said the restoration assumptions run through three independent models rely on weather projections that allow the linemen to get up in the trucks and complete the work. CL&P has about 1,000 broken or damaged poles it has to replace.
Connecticut Light & Power was widely criticized after the nor’easter last October for promising to restore power three days before it was able to accomplish that for a majority of its customers. An independent report found that the utility had only planned for a storm where 100,000 customers lost power. More than 800,000 of its customers lost power during that storm.
The independent report conducted by Witt Associates found that even though it promised to restore power by a specific date, its internal modeling was more on target. The report went on the criticize the lack of planning the utility did before the storm hit.
Frank Cirillo, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 420, which represents the CL&P linemen said “it’s déjà vu all over again.”
He said even if the help comes from outside the state they have another six to seven days before power is restored.
Instead of putting wire up, CL&P line crews are being told to set aside downed lines and clear roads and clean up trees, Cirillo said.
And instead of getting the supplies they need delivered to them in the field they’re having to pick them up and there’s few if any staff working the supply room when they return to the work station.
“It’s incompetent management,” Cirillo said. “We get more work done at night when management is gone.”
Cirillo’s union is currently working without a contract and has the ability to strike at a moment’s notice, but “the union is putting the people of Connecticut first and doing the best it can to get the lights back on quickly.”
Quinlan denied that the change in focus regarding the down wires and tree clearing was slowing down the restoration process and he remained confident they would get the number of crews they need to restore power to most of its customers by early next week.
Quinlan said utilities up and down the east coast have declined to be specific about their restoration projections. Instead, what you’re hearing is “a majority of our customers will be restored in 10 days or customers should expect restoration no earlier than seven days,” he said.
“Just so we’re clear we expect to be substantially complete by Monday or Tuesday of next week and that is something a vast majority of our customers can plan on,” Quinlan said.
UI has 400 linemen and expects an additional 100 by Friday and 350 tree crews with another 20 coming on Friday. There were about 200 poles damaged by the storm that will need to be repaired or replaced.
And while it expects to have power back to 95 percent of its customers by midnight on Monday there will still be about 16,000 customers without power, UI CEO James Torgerson said Thursday.
He said today the company expects to get 20,000 to 25,000 customers back on the grid and by Friday it will be able to provide town-by-town restoration estimates.
Check back later for updates to this story.