Town copes with early winter storm
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Mon., Nov. 7, 2011
The early winter storm that struck on Oct. 29 was worse than tropical storm Irene, at least in terms of the sheer number of power lines brought down due to snow that stuck to not-yet-fallen leaves on tree branches. “We’re in this for the long haul,” said Town Manager Richard Johnson on Tuesday, Nov. 1, as crews were beginning to restore power to some of the 95 percent (some estimates were higher) of homes and businesses in town that experienced outages.
“A fair amount of the New London Turnpike corridor has come on,” Johnson said Tuesday, "And the high school has come on. Our primary goal is to have the central business district up and running. That is what they are working on right now. The Hopewell substation— one of the main substations in town – is up.”
Although prepared for the possibility that at least some of the town could go a week or more without power, Johnson said he was optimistic about the amount of town, state, and CL&P crews, as well as those from other states, and the work they were accomplishing.
“The challenge is between the linemen being able to restore power, and the linemen assigned to our crews to be able to help us get rid of the trees that have wires wrapped around them,” Johnson said. "If there are trees over roads that have wires, we have to have a CL&P line crew with us.”
Johnson said that in a conference call with CL&P officials, some of the crews that were promised from other states were not coming, which put further pressure on local and CL&P crews to restore power to first substations, and then the slow process of restoring neighborhoods.
Some areas in town were almost cut off, due to downed trees. Police and town staff went door-to-door in those areas, to check on residents. The town’s call center was open 6 a.m.-10 p.m. to give the best information available to residents, and Glastonbury’s public emergency radio station – 1570 AM – was offering shelter and safety information.
Naturally, there was frustration. Johnson said he was already fielding calls and e-mails about the slowness of the restoration.
Johnson added that Glastonbury seemed to get some terrible luck, as other towns saw less damage from Irene, and others saw less damage from the winter storm, but Glastonbury seemed to get the worst of both. “We got a double-whammy,” he said. “We may be one of the towns that got hit the hardest by both storms, so we figure we’re in it for the long haul. It’s very frustrating, but CL&P knows our position. They are getting out here, and they are communicating much quicker.”
Glastonbury High School served as a shelter, where residents could get showers, meals, coffee, and the ability to recharge cell phones and computers. Several residents also stayed in the gymnasium overnight. About 25 residents stayed in the shelter on Sunday, Oct. 30. That number rose to 100 on Halloween, and as of 3 p.m. on Tuesday, 89 had signed up for that night. Town staff running the shelter said that they would likely see more than 100, but hoped the number would peak there, as residences slowly get power back over the following days.
Senior Center Coordinator Maryleah Skoronski was manning the check-in desk at the shelter on Tuesday. “That’s the thing with my job,” she said. “You never know what you’re going to do from one day to the next.” She said most people were in reasonably good moods.
“So far, I haven’t seen any problems,” she said. “Everybody’s been up and positive. It’s kind of like an adventure. After five or six days, though, we’ll see.”
Potable water was available at fire stations. Johnson said wi-fi and charging stations would also come online soon at the Academy school building and the Welles-Turner Library.
Brush deposit areas – Rotary Field, Riverfront Park, and Arbor Acres – were, and remain open for residents to bring downed branches, and the bulky waste facility was open, including on Sunday, with fees waived. “Just bring it,” Johnson said.
School was cancelled for the entire week, although some had power by mid-week. Johnson said it was not about the school buildings themselves getting power restored, but the students' and their families’ safety, as far as getting to school from damaged neighborhoods.
For the latest on Glastonbury's power restoration and storm cleanup efforts, visit the town's website, www.glasct.org.