Thousands in area still without power after powerful storms

Thousands in area still without power after powerful storms

Staff and wire reports

Tens of thousands of state residents remained without power Wednesday following powerful storms Tuesday, while officials with the National Weather Service determined that a macroburst packing 100 mph winds caused extensive damage in southwestern Connecticut — not a tornado.

"This was the second most active severe weather day across the country in 2018," said Gary Lessor, meteorologist with the Weather Center at Western Connecticut State University.

Wallingford public schools were closed Wednesday due to the high number of trees down in roads. Cheshire public schools had a two-hour delay.

Wallingford Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. said more than 30 utility poles were broken in town. He expects the town to completely recover within five days.

"The number of poles and outages exceeds any other storms in the past 14 years," he said. 

Wallingford Public Utilities Director Rick Hendershot said crews were out in force, some working 16-hour shifts. About 3,800 local residents were still without power Wednesday afternoon.

The department had 18 local line crews, including six mutual aid crews from Massachusetts and five contracted crews. Hendershot said the southern half of Wallingford suffered the most damage.

"This will be a multi-day event," Hendershot said.

Eversource Energy reported 86,467 customers statewide without power as of 8 a.m. on Wednesday. There are about 1,000 outages in Cheshire and about 350 outages in Meriden.

“Damage is heavy in multiple towns throughout the state,” Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross said. “It takes time and we’ll continue to move on it but in the meantime it’s all hands on deck.”

The storms that swept the Northeast were blamed for the deaths of two people in Connecticut whose vehicles were hit by trees in New Fairfield and Danbury.

The Brookfield area was hit by the macroburst, which is a downdraft that can cause tornado-like damage. Crews are still assessing damage in the Danbury area to see if a tornado hit there.

The storms downed scores of trees and power lines. Utilities reported about 83,600 power outages Wednesday afternoon, down from a high of more than 120,000.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said power restoration could take days in some areas.

Wallingford police said the public works department is working on clearing trees and branches from the roads, and officers responded throughout the storm to assist. Lt. Richard Homestead advised residents to stay away from downed wires and to call an expert if a tree struck their home. Homestead said residents can be seriously injured if they try to remove a fallen tree themselves.

Wallingford Fire Chief Rich Heidgard said firefighters responded to two incidents of wires that fell on top of cars with motorists inside.

Department of Energy and Environmental Protection spokesman Chris Collibee said Wharton Brook State Park in Wallingford is closed due to storm damage.

Wallingford School Superintendent Salvatore Menzo said several schools lost power Tuesday. Electricity has since been restored to all schools, except Cook Hill School.

Menzo said he planned to meet with Dickinson and the Wallingford Electric Division to discuss the next steps. It was not immediately clear when schools would reopen.

“Right now we're in cleanup mode,” he said. “Staff are still assessing all (schools).”

Cheshire Assistant Town Manager Arnett Talbot said a large number of trees fell in town, and damage was concentrated in the southern part of town. Route 10 is closed near the Cheshire/Hamden town line due to downed trees entangled with power lines.

Cheshire public works employees worked closely with Eversource crews to clear roads.

“The town’s police, fire and public Works crews did an exceptional job working to ensure the public safety of residents throughout the night,” she said.

Cheshire Fire Chief Jack Casner said the department received 50 calls during the storm. Eleven homes had tree damage, and one resident suffered a minor injury when a tree fell on a house.

Emergency dispatchers worked to triage calls from incident to incident.

“If a tree fell down without wires we worked collectively with police and public works to clear the area,” Casner said.

Cheshire Town Council Chairman Rob Oris said there was widespread damage to homes and crews worked overnight to clear roads.

“They will be working now to assist in cleanup as necessary,” he said.

At one point, about 30 percent of the town was without power.

"The crews unfortunately are on a mandatory rest period for now,” Oris said Wednesday. “We won't see (additional cleanup) until later today.”

A total cost of damage has not yet been determined.

Heather Meyerjack’s Bellamy Road home suffered severe damage when a tree fell on the roof.

"We're all lucky to be alive," she said.

On Wednesday, the family was waiting on a crane to lift the tree off the house so crews could begin placing tarp on the roof.

The home was one of two that had trees fall on them on Bellamy Road.

Construction crews were busy in the Bellamy Road and Sorghum Mill Drive area clearing downed branches and trees.

Police in Meriden said the 1600 block of North Colony Road was closed for a tree down, and Atkins Street and Converse Avenue had wires down. Southington police reported a fairly quiet morning after the storm.

Meriden resident David Ortiz was at work when the storm hit and was stunned to return to a massive tree down in the backyard of his Webster Street home. 

"I was just in shock that it didn't hit the house," Ortiz said.

State Department of Transportation spokesman Kevin Nursick said multiple trees came down on Route 15 between exits 65 and 63 about 7 p.m. The southbound side of the parkway was closed but reopened about 9:30 p.m.

Malloy provided an update Wednesday afternoon from Brookfield, one of the town’s most devastated by the storm. 

“It’s a tremendous amount of damage,” Malloy said. “Coming from east to west, every five miles you saw substantially great damage.”. 

Rescue crews were active throughout the night. 

“I think there are going to be a lot of people without power for days,” Malloy said. ““Everything that could easily be brought back has been, now we’re in for a slog. We have at least 1,800 damaged locations to fix so we’re looking at a long period of outages potentially.”

State officials are still working to classify the intensity of the storm and verify if one or multiple tornadoes touched down, Malloy said. Regional crews from New Hampshire and Massachusetts are mobilizing to provide additional aid.


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