Northeast snowstorm: Connecticut slowest to restore power, again

Connecticut residents were particularly hard-hit by power outages both during the Northeast snowstorm and hurricane Irene. With so many outages, the state has been slow to restore power. 

Jessica Hill/AP
Connecticut Light & Power workers tend to a high voltage power line in Windsor Locks, Conn., on Nov. 2. Over 90% of the town has been without power since the Oct. 29 snowstorm.

The early winter snowstorm that hit the Northeast over Halloween weekend took a greater toll on power grids in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire than did hurricane Irene in August. And, as was the case then, the race to restore power has been slowest in Connecticut. 

The storm track for hurricane Irene at least gave utilities regionwide a week to gather resources and call for backup crews from the Midwest and South. The October snowstorm, however, materialized in just a few days.

Some utilities have struggled more than others in the aftermath, according to data from the US Department of Energy's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.

  • At their peak, power outages in Connecticut hit 831,000 customers. As of Wednesday morning, power had been restored to about 284,000 of those customers – one-third of the peak number. 
  • In Massachusetts, 450,000 customers – almost two-thirds of the 670,000 peak – had had their power restored by Wednesday.
  • New Hampshire was faring even better, with 227,000 customers – 72 percent of the 315,000 peak – restored by Wednesday. 

Connecticut's performance in restoring power has been slower than its performance after Irene, which was criticized at the time. In the four days after Irene, 443,000 of the 702,154 outages were restored – about 63 percent. At the time, that was the lowest percentage of any state with outages from Irene.

Damage from the storm was far more extensive than forecast, reports Connecticut Light & Power, which oversees power delivery in about 150 towns statewide. 

"This will not be a 'quick fix'.... This may take more than a week to restore all of our customers," said Jeff Butler, president and chief operating officer of CL&P in a statement on Sunday. "There are reports of trees down practically everywhere." 

The Connecticut Department of Transportation estimates tree damage to be five times greater than during Irene. 

Overall, the snowstorm led to fewer outages than did Irene: 3.2 million residents in 10 states for the snowstorm versus 6.7 million residents in 14 states for Irene, according to the Department of Energy.

But the story in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire was different.

  • In Connecticut, the 831,000 customer outages in during the snowstorm topped the 702,154 outages from Irene. 
  • In Massachusetts, 670,000 customers lost power in the snowstorm, compared with 567,000 in Irene.
  • In New Hampshire, the snowstorm caused nearly three times more outages than did Irene: 315,000 compared with 116,000. 

Similar to Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire have both been slower to restore power after the snowstorm than after Irene. Four days after Irene, Massachusetts had restored power to 90 percent of the customers who lost it, while New Hampshire had restored 98 percent. 

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