FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Fairfield County’s two major utility companies say they are prepared to deal with any power outages that occur during the nor'easter expected to hit late Wednesday and dump more than a foot of snow on the area.
Forecasts predict the upcoming storm will bring wet, heavy snow, and wind gusts up to 40 mph, which could pose problems for power lines. The snow could be heavy enough to bring down tree limbs and power lines, leading to power outages.
Connecticut Light & Power is predicting fewer than 150 to 200 areas would need repairs across its 149 towns. That would qualify the storm as a “Level I Event,” CL&P’s lowest damage level. The company expects most of the damage to be along the coast or in Litchfield County.
“The company will activate its emergency response plan tomorrow morning and will have crews standing by across the state,” CL&P said Wednesday.
Both utilities suggest residents should have a “storm kit” ready to go in case of an outage. The kits should include battery-powered flashlights and radios with spare batteries, first-aid supplies, canned or freeze-dried food and bottled water. CL&P has posted a video with tips on creating a storm kit on YouTube.
“Customers who are dependent on electricity for critical medical needs are urged to make preparations now to switch to a backup source or move to an alternate location if necessary,” CL&P added.
CL&P has 180 line crews -- 382 workers -- available as well as 182 vegetation management crews with 364 workers. Work centers are preparing for activation, fueling up vehicles and resupplying trucks. Line vehicles are being pre-staged in certain areas Wednesday night for fast response to potential power outages Thursday.
Advance planning for snow removal at CL&P work centers and substations is also underway.
United Illuminating’s parent company, UIL Holdings Inc., also runs Southern Connecticut Gas and Connecticut Natural Gas Corp. That company has also taken steps to keep its supplies running through the snowstorm and the upcoming weekend, which is expected to have temperatures as low as the single digits.
UIL has asked what it calls its “interruptible” customers—industrial and commercial users with alternate fuel sources—to switch off their natural gas use during high-stress times to make sure that residential customers have a full supply.
“This ability to curtail ‘interruptible’ supply is just one facet of a larger system that’s designed to allow our natural gas distribution companies to make the best use of available supplies, helping to even out short-term spikes in demand during peak periods,” said Robert Allessio, president of the two gas companies.
Crews from both companies saw first-hand the kinds of problems that can arise after a winter storm. CL&P and UI both sent workers to eastern Pennsylvania last week to help a Philadelphia-area utility repair its damage from the Feb. 5 snowstorm. United Illuminating tweeted Wednesday that “crews are back from PA to work.”
“The devastation was pretty incredible,” said Pat Lynch, a UI restoration engineer. Lynch accompanied UI crews to help manage the efforts. “We were fortunate that this amount of ice didn’t affect the UI service territory in the same manner.”
United Illuminating customers can call 800-722-5584, and CL&P customers should call 800-286-2000 to report any outages. Downed wires should also be reported to local authorities by dialing 911.