Connecticut Light & Power has opened the emergency operations center at its Berlin headquarters and called for 2,0o0 line workers and 700 tree workers from utilities and contractors in the Midwest to be in place by Sunday.
CL&P is also urging residents to prepare for Sandy, which was upgraded to a hurricane Wednesday.
United Illuminating, which serves a smaller section of the state including New Haven and Bridgeport, has lined up an additional 300 workers, but has not yet called in mutual aid from Midwest utilities, a spokesman said.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy also issued a statement calling for residents to be prepared, with a list of emergency items.
CL&P and UI have both started their emergency plans. At CL&P, that includes activating 2,000 employees who aren’t normally in the field, for storm duty; setting up teams to stay in constant touch with cities and towns and critical customers; and girding CL&P’s 13 regional storm centers.
“We’re closely monitoring weather forecasts and preparing for high winds and heavy rain that can devastate the electric system and cause power outages,” said Bill Quinlan, the CL&P senior vice president of emergency preparedness. “The past year has been all about improving storm response, and we stand ready to respond as quickly and safely as possible. While we hope for the best, we all need to prepare for the worst.”
The request by CL&P for 2,700 workers is a formal step, but does not yet commit CL&P to pay for the aid, spokeswoman Tricia Taskey Modifica said. Those crews are in addition to CL&P’s own 400 line workers and 300 tree workers, all on full alert; crews from CL&P parent Northeast Utilities, in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, if the storm does not hit those areas; and in-state private firms that could provide crews.
“Understandably, other utilities on the east coast will not be able to release their own crews until they address storm damage,” Modifica said.
The 3,400 workers in place or requested compares with 4,400 who were on the job at the peak of the restoration effort after last year’s October snowstorm, which knocked out power to 800,000 customers, many for more than a week. But those numbers were not reached until the 9th day of that emergency, adding to the sharp criticism aimed at CL&P for its management of the storm.
Whatever else happens, this time around, no one will be able to criticize CL&P for requesting too little help, too late.
“At this point we are not going to underestimate this storm,” Quinlan said in an interview Wednesday at the then-dormant emergency operations center.
The company is asking customers to prepare storm kits and make other emergency plans for a possible hit by Sandy mid- to late Monday. Its lively, 2-minute video on YouTube takes viewers through the steps needed to get ready.
Malloy, in an interview Wednesday, said the state is “watching closely” and would be prepared to respond strongly. “We will be aggressive in all of our decisions and I suspect that they will be fairly aggressive,” Malloy said of CL&P
CL&P provided several links for customers preparing:
Connecticut’s Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, www.ct.gov/demhs
The Connecticut American Red Cross, www.ctredcross.org.
Check back here and at www.courant.com for constant updates.