The Town of West Hartford issued an alert to residents Monday afternoon as high winds made their impact felt on the area, knocking down trees and power lines. [Updated]
By Ronni Newton
Update, 5:45 p.m.
Winds howled throughout the day Monday, and combined with saturated soil, felled many trees throughout town.
Just before 4:30 p.m., a large tree fell straight across Trout Brook Drive at Warwick, completely blocking traffic in both the northbound and southbound directions.
Director of Public Works John Phillips said it was very fortunate that the tree landed in the roadway when there wasn’t any traffic passing by. There were no injuries, but the road was closed for more than an hour in both directions while crews removed the tree.
Rain moved into West Hartford early Monday morning, and by late morning the winds began howling, prompting the town to contact residents with a severe weather alert.
“Heavy rains with wind gusts up to 70 mph are possible this afternoon which has the potential to cause power outages and downed trees,” the Town of West Hartford stated in a message.
According to the National Weather Service, a high wind warning will remain in effect through 7 p.m. Monday. The warning states: “Damaging winds will blow down trees and power lines. Widespread power outages are expected. Travel will be difficult, especially for high profile vehicles.”
The town’s alert suggests that residents “bring in or secure any items, like patio chairs, tables, or umbrellas. Residents should charge cellphones and make sure they have flashlights that are in working order.”
If you see downed power lines, stay far away, and follow local news for other alerts.
As of 12:30 p.m., there were 737 (2.56%) Eversource customers in West Hartford without power, down slightly from 838 customers about an hour earlier.
Trees were reported down around town, including on Knollwood Road, Mohawk Drive, and Farmington Avenue.
Director of Public Works John Phillips also said that as of 12:40 pm., Simsbury Road was blocked due to a tree that had taken down wires and he had crews headed to check out a report of a tree down on Ledyard Road.
Phillips said Public Works is extremely busy with storm-related issues, but the COVID-19 pandemic as well as continued severe weather is impacting the nature of the response.
“We’re doing our best to stay within our social distancing workforce, but some of this is very labor-intensive and difficult work,” Phillips said. “There will be a lag time in clean-up,” he said.
“Right now we are operating with a ‘make safe’ response,” said Phillips. They will be barricading the area and tieing it off with caution tape, or if safely able to do will move downed branches or trees to allow traffic to move through with limited ability.
Not only is the COVID-19 pandemic – which is causing Public Works to operate with a reduced crew in order to limited employees’ exposure for those who have to work closer than the 6-foot requirement – having an impact on the response, but Phillips said it’s unsafe in many cases to move trees with the winds continuing to be so strong.
Phillips said it’s important for residents to contact Eversource directly, themselves, if they lose power, so the location can be properly plotted for outage and restoration purposes. “Don’t call Public Works or the Emergency Resource Center,” he said, or they may not know that your home is impacted.
If you lose power, you can report it through Eversource.com, or by calling 1-800-286-2000. Eversource customers can also use text messaging to report outages and get updates. To enable this two-way service, register your mobile device either online at Eversource.com, or directly from your mobile phone by texting “REG” to 23129. Once registered, Eversource recommends customers add the outage text number to their contacts for quick access. Then, when a power outage occurs, text “OUT” to 23129 and “STAT” for updates.
The town is also reminding residents that generators must operate outdoors, away from the house, in a well-ventilated area.
Public Works has been providing support to first responders throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Phillips said, assisting with items such as vehicle repair.
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