The damage in Newtown is worse that Connecticut Light & Power has anticipated, prompting officials to say that restoration will take much longer than originally expected, CL&P representatives said.
The new estimate shows that 99-percent of the town will be restored by Sunday – one day after CL&P had originally estimated – and that full restoration wouldn't happen until Weds., Nov. 9, utility representatives told the town during this morning's meeting at the Emergency Operations Center.
Apparently utility "patrollers," who ride around inspecting wire damage found substantial problems in Newtown, some severe enough that they have had to take some areas off the grid in order for repairs to be done. The damage apparently was not spotted until recently, CL&P officials said.
As a result, the number of outages are expected to increase before they decrease.
The news had First Selectman Pat Llodra upset, particularly because CL&P did not have plans to bring in additional personnel other than the 17 line and 17 tree crews assigned to Newtown Friday, and that other towns appeared to be returning to the grid at a faster rate.
"When is CL&P going to understand our geography and the unique challenges in our town?" she asked. "Why does it take your patrollers to find what we already know?"
A few hours after the meeting, Llodra said that CL&P got back to her and had agreed to add an additional two line and two tree crews to the town, bringing the total number of crews to 38.
In addition, town officials have identified 16 roads that are completely blocked to traffic due to downed trees and wires, some of which fell down within the past 24 hours, including Swamp Road, likely due to the stress that they have been under.
"Gravity is winning," Public Works Director Fred Hurley said.
In addition, there are 100 or so location with some type of problem involving trees and wires, he said.
Officials said that making roadways safe is their first priority, and that in some cases, the work will take more than a day to clear, such as Obtuse Road.
"We need resources," Hurley said.
What complicates the problem is that if the road clearing involves wires, specialized utility tree crews must be used. CL&P officials said that they could assign more tree crews but that would take away from the restoration work ongoing.
But Llodra said she wanted CL&P to send in additional crews and not take crews away from restoration work. She said she was frustrated to see other towns having their outages go down while Newtown has stayed virtually at a standstill or even increased, imploring CL&P representatives to convince their superiors that more crews needed to be sent to Newtown.
"We're bigger, we have more miles than our neighbors," she said.
The state Department of Transportation also has offered to send in workers to help with roadway clearing, although they also are not certified to work around electricity wires.
Meanwhile, crews from the town department of parks and recreation, who had been working to reduce the dangerous conditions around the Municipal Center and other public places, will be used to help public works clear some of the smaller brush debris that is impending travel and would need to be cleared in order for school buses to do their runs, officials said.
Town workers will work through the weekend on this assignment and if all of the blocked roadways are opened, school bus drivers will do trial runs on Sunday afternoon and report back on whether they faced any major obstacles. If the roadways are not opened or dangerous travel conditions persist, there is a possibility .
Llodra and Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson said they would meet to talk about possible contingency plans.
Correction: Estimates show that 99-percent of the town will be restored by Sunday. An earlier version of this article incorrectly characterized the restoration estimate.
Editor's note: This article has been updated since it was originally published to indicate that First Selectman Pat Llodra said CL&P has since agreed Friday afternoon to add four additional crews to Newtown to bring the total to 38 crews.