Eversource touts army of crews, but some towns critical of its storm response

An Eversource crew assists with Monroe public works' efforts to reopen Route 110 Friday. Contributed

MONROE, CT — Eversource touts its response to Tropical Storm Isaias, saying an army of line crews are working around-the-clock to restore power after nearly 700,000 of its Connecticut customers lost power Tuesday. But among town leaders, Monroe First Selectman Ken Kellogg is not alone in his criticism of the energy company’s response.

Kellogg says other town leaders throughout Connecticut share his frustration over, what they see as, a lack of coordination, communication and resources.

“We literally asked our Eversource liaison, ‘Eversource said we’re going to see a dramatic increase in crews in the last 24 hours. It’s been 24 hours, so where are the crews?'” Kellogg said Friday. “Our emergency management people are on calls throughout the region, and it’s pretty much the same story from all the towns served by Eversource.”

As of Saturday morning, 4,368 Monroe customers were still without power, nearly 55-percent of the town.

“We understand Mr. Kellogg’s frustration, as well as that of our customers,” Mitch Gross, a spokesman for Eversource, said Friday. “We understand the sense of urgency and to do everything we can to get all remaining customers back on as quickly and safely as possible. And there has been a marked increase in line workers and tree workers from out of state … more than 1,000 crews are at work across the state and we expect many more to arrive in the next 12 to 24 hours. The damage was extensive, and we are committed to getting the work done.”

On Saturday, an Eversource press release said over 1,600 crews are working and satellite command centers are being used to put crews and materials closer to the areas where they’re needed most. Overall, the number of Connecticut customers without power was down to 290,000.

Town-by-town restoration estimates will be available later today.

Eversource said statewide restoration will be substantially complete by Tuesday at 11:59 p.m., though most customers will have their power back before then. Substantially complete means fewer than one percent of customers are still without power.

‘No one is happy’

The Sun also spoke to first selectmen in Southbury, Middlebury and Oxford about their interaction with Eversource.

“No one is happy,” said Southbury First Selectman Jeffrey Manville. “It is to the point that there is no sense in having DPW hanging around, because they cannot touch power lines until Eversource crews tell them it is safe. Southbury DPW is ready and has done all that they can do.”

Middlebury First Selectman Edward B. St. John said his town roads are cleared and safe and a restoration crew was there Friday, but added he was frustrated with a lack of communication from Eversource.

Oxford First Selectman George Temple called the power company’s response “horrendous.”

“As far as I’m concerned, there is poor to no communication and deception,” Temple said Friday, adding he was told Oxford should be fully restored by Wednesday. “I feel for the people who are out, the people with special needs, the people with oxygen.”

On Friday, Oxford had one tree truck crew and two line crews. One crew came to town after first working in Southbury.

“Those guys are hard workers. They do a good job,” Temple said Friday night. “There is nobody working in Oxford as we speak. Those guys went home. I’m not begrudging them. It’s a hard job and you want to be well rested, while doing it. But nobody is replacing them.”

Until enough Eversource crews are there to make conditions safe, Temple said Oxford’s public works department can’t clear all of its roads.

“I don’t want our guys touching wires,” he said, adding, “Quaker Farms Road is still closed. That’s a main road.”

Temple said it also hard to drive through Seymour, where a tree is in the middle of Great Hill Road.

Kellogg said Monroe town officials have emphasized the importance of opening its roads to Eversource. Though there was some progress on Friday evening, when an energy company crew helped public works open Route 110, a major state road which had areas of blockage from downed trees, branches and wires.

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