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Blizzard cleanup is a shovel-ready project

By Karen Florin and Joe Wojtas

Publication: The Day

Published February 11. 2013 4:00AM   Updated February 11. 2013 6:31PM
Tim Martin/The Day
New London residents remove snow from an unplowed Coit Street after the blizzard Sunday. Coit Street is one of about 30 streets in the city that need smaller plows to clear snow, according to Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, who helped residents of the street dig out.
Lights are coming back on as monumental task of digging out continues

Cindy Webster wore a knit cap with a long tassle inside her chilly house on Mallard Lane in Waterford Sunday afternoon and waited, patiently, for the power company to restore her electricity.

The temperature inside the raised ranch was in the 50s, but Webster said she was comfortable enough, even after two days without power.

"We are living near the gas fireplace," she said.

Webster had done a lot of cooking and baking before the storm, so there was "plenty to nibble," she said. And she was using the snow that had piled onto the back deck as an outdoor refrigerator.

Webster and her neighbors on Mallard Lane were among those still without power Sunday, two days after the blizzard walloped southeastern Connecticut.

But CL&P made great strides in restoring power Sunday night as most southeastern customers were back on line by midnight Sunday. On Sunday morning, for instance, 75 percent of customers in North Stonington were without power, but by 9 p.m. just 2 percent or 76 remained in the dark. Only Old Lyme, where 1,373 or 25 percent of customers, were still without power, had significant outages.

Schools across the region are closed today as are many municipal offices. The state has told all its nonessential employees to stay home today. State courts and Judicial Branch offices are closed. The postal service announced that post offices will reopen today with normal delivery and retail operations. Postal officials also remind property owners to clear snow around mailboxes and keep steps and sidewalks clear of snow and ice.

Amtrak will offer expanded, but still limited, service on the Northeast Corridor between New York and Boston, including the addition of Acela Express service

Waterford police reported two storm-related incidents Sunday as boy was injured Sunday evening after he was thrown off an all terrain vehicle he was driving on the ice- and snow-covered roadway on Locust Court, according to police. He was taken to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital.

Also, the roof of the JayPro sporting goods company at 976 Hartford Turnpike partially collapsed Sunday under the weight of the weekend's heavy snow. There were no injuries.

Town officials urged homeowners and business with flat roofs Sunday to clear them of snow or risk a collapse with today's predicted rain. Schools, many of which have flat roofs, began to do that on Sunday.

Across the region, highway department crews continued to clear streets and dig out fire hydrants. There were also concerns about downed power lines buried by snow.

Twenty-three people remained at the regional shelter at the East Lyme Middle School and 28 were at the Stonington shelter, also a regional facility, as of about 7 p.m. Sunday. The peak shelter population in East Lyme was 158 people. The peak at the Stonington shelter was 60 people.

While the number of power outages decreased dramatically as the day wore on, some people may not have wanted to return to their cold homes in the dark, according to Sue Rochester-Bolen, American Red Cross regional manager for Connecticut and Rhode Island.

"I am hoping that tonight will be the last night they have to have a shelter," said Rochester-Bolen.

In Stonington Sunday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman visited the shelter at the Stonington High School where she spent 30 minutes chatting with residents, Red Cross officials and First Selectman Ed Haberek, who told her he was pleased with how CL&P was working to reduce power outages in town.

"How you doing? You got everything you need?" she asked one table of women knitting. At another she cradled a 3-week-old boy whose mother had taken refuge at the shelter.

"What a way to come into the world," she said to him.

Wyman agreed with Haberek, saying CL&P had changed its strategy about how to dispatch crews after the criticisms that followed Hurricane Sandy and now sent crews to southeastern Connecticut as fast as possible. In addition she said CL&P had been in constant contact with her and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at the state's emergency operations center.

"Right now I will give them a thumbs up," she said about the utility.

Wyman said that in the coming weeks the state will review the response to the storm. She said one area that will be looked at is whether towns have the appropriate equipment to respond to storms.

She added she was not worried that federal disaster aid would be held up as it was with Hurricane Sandy.

Back on Mallard Lane in Waterford, Webster said having family members who live nearby and caring neighbors eased the experience of yet another power outage. One neighbor came over with a carafe of hot water for tea, another with a shovel to clear a path for Hudson, her short-legged Welsh Corgi.

Next door, Susan and Glenn Ahnert were using a generator to run a small heater that kept their house at about 60 degrees. They had to pick and choose which amenities they would use because the 3,250-watt generator could handle only so much. They weren't running the refrigerator, but they had brewed coffee in the morning.

"We're campers, so we're OK," said Mrs. Ahnert. "And we've got some heavy blankets."

Across the street, Louis and Jeannine Lanzarotto had spent Saturday night in the family room, where they have a propane stove. By Sunday afternoon, their son had brought them a generator so that they could turn on the stove's blower. They heated food and water on the propane stove, patiently waiting the 45 minutes it took to bring things up to temperature.

"There's only so much you can do," said Mr. Lanzarotto. "You've got to have a certain amount of patience."

First Selectman Dan Steward's home on nearby Oswegatchie Road was among the 25 percent in town still without power as of 3 p.m. Sunday. Steward, who was using a generator, said a lot of people in town did not have them and needed help. By 6 p.m., Steward said power had been restored to all but 300 residences.

On Saturday, he said he had questioned why CL&P had only two crews in town. By Sunday, he said there were 60 crews working here.

"It's hard because it's cold," he said. "There's people who need heat. There's roads that are inaccessible."

Police, ambulance workers and even Connecticut National Guard members in Humvees were out transporting people to the town's warming center, Steward said. The public works crews were working hard, but their equipment was having trouble with the heavy snow, Steward said.

"This is the 100-year storm that we've had three of in the last three years," he said.

Some Waterford roads, particularly cul-de-sacs, remained unplowed Sunday, but Steward said the crews would be working to clear them by this morning.

k.florin@theday.com

j.wojtas@theday.com

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