Darien recovers from storm that Eversource calls worse than Superstorm Sandy
DARIEN — Given the damage it wreaked in Connecticut as a tropical storm, it’s tough to imagine what kind of impact Isaias would have had at full force.
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson told The Darien Times on Wednesday that her Eversource liaison told her the impact in terms of power outages statewide was worse than Hurricane Sandy.
Beginning Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday morning, many trees and wires were reported down all over Darien. As of Wednesday morning, nearly half of the state’s Eversource customers were without power, or about 618,000. Darien’s outages remained also at nearly half, with 3,857 customers, or 46 percent of the town, in the dark.
And even then, Darien is in better shape than some of its Fairfield County neighbors.
Over 90 percent of New Canaan customers were without power, Ridgefield was at 77 percent, Weston at 94 percent, Redding at 97 percent, Norwalk at 44 percent, and Westport at 96 percent, according to Eversource.
Worse than Sandy
Stevenson said she expected the number of Darien’s outages to go up as more residents make reports. Eversource cited several problems on Tuesday with its automated outage reporting system that caused many to express frustration with the utility company.
Eversource crews were spending Wednesday assessing the damages and actual repairs would begin on Thursday, she said.
Eversource said that after Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011 and the surprise October snowstorm, also in 2011, Tropical Storm Isaias caused the third biggest storm-related power outage in the state’s history — outnumbering even Hurricane Sandy.
At its worst, Darien's outages from Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012 were up to 92 percent. They remained in the low 80s for several days as repairs continued. During Tropical Storm Irene’s aftermath in August 2011, the highest reported outages hit 71 percent. During the surprise Halloween storm in October, 2011, outages hit their highest at 46 percent.
The impact of Isaias was surprising after it decreased in power from a hurricane to a tropical storm upon landfall, Stevenson said.
“I have to give a shout out to the Darien Police who take all the 911 calls and work with their allies on the damage assessment crew, fire and EMS on all life safety concerns,” she said.
Though town crews worked overnight to clear some roadways, Stevenson said they cannot clear any debris that includes wires. Eversource crews must attend to those.
Restoration and cleanup
Stevenson said the town had several priority locations for Wednesday’s cleanup. Those areas included eight dead-end streets that were blocked in, which had to be cleared in the case of emergency.
Those eight areas included: Casement Street, Peach Hill Road, Point o’ Woods, Delwood Lane, Cary Lane, Little Brook Road, Gideon Lane/Squab Lane and Highfield Lane.
Other priorities include the main sewer pump station on Nearwater Lane, which was without power and running on a generator, as well as Hindley School, which is the location of the Darien YMCA’s school age summer camp, Stevenson said.
Beyond those priority locations, Stevenson said there are 100 locations with reports of downed trees and wires, and she said she expects that list to grow by the day.
“Eversource has to do their assessment before they begin restoration activities. We expect that today there will not be restoration other than critical facilities,” she sad.
She added that she expects that Eversource, as with other storms, will bring in crews from other states to assist.
Stevenson urged patience as she said with the amount of damage in Darien and the state, restoration could take until Friday or Saturday in some cases.
She also added that she is working with Darien’s other utility partners who may be experiencing outages, like Optimum, Altice and Frontier, to restore residents’ internet and phone service along with their power.
Looking at the numbers
Stevenson reported some statistics, too, from her update with Darien Police.
Over the night of Tuesday into Wednesday, Darien Police had 450 calls for service. More came in on the second shift this morning.
Those calls included:
— 140 to 150 locations with storm damage.
— 35 road closures.
— 17 trees on homes and one on a commercial building.
— 10 trees on vehicles throughout the town.
“Thank God no one was injured,” she said.
Residents who have no power and are vulnerable or of ill health who need help should reach out to town resources, Stevenson said. The Department of Human Resources at 203-656-7328, and the non-emergency number at the police department, 203-662-5300, are options. Do not call 911 unless it is a true emergency.
Stevenson also added that traffic lights are not working due to power issues so driving should be done with caution. She also emphasized that all downed wires should be assumed live.
“Do not walk under, through or drive under trees leaning with power lines. Do not attempt to cut down trees and branches with wires,” Stevenson said.
“There will be some inconveniences. Sometimes you will have to find another way to get from point a to point b,’ she said.