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West Hartford, State Prepare for Tropical Storm Elsa

Power company trucks gather in the parking lot at Home Depot in West Hartford to prepare for response to Tropical Storm Elsa. Photo courtesy of Chip Adams

West Hartford officials are prepared to respond if Tropical Storm Elsa impacts the town, and state officials have been working closely with the power companies on measures to avoid lengthy outages.

Craig Hallstrom, president of regional operations at Eversource. Photo credit: Christine Stuart, CTNewsJunkie.com

By Ronni Newton

Portions of a report by Christine Stuart, CTNewsJunkie.com, have been included

West Hartford does not appear to be in the crosshairs of Tropical Storm Elsa, but heavy rain and wind are still likely late Thursday night and Friday, and town officials have been closely monitoring the storm and are prepared to mobilize quickly should it be necessary to respond in the event of extensive impact.

“While on the edge of the weather pattern and southern areas of the state are predicted to be hit harder, the possibility of heavy rain and wind impacting the community is likely,” Fire Chief Greg Priest, who heads the town’s Office of Emergency Management, said in an email Thursday night. Flooding, downed trees, road closures, and power outages are all possible, he said.

Priest said that representatives of key departments within the Town of West Hartford are prepared to convene an emergency operations center (EOC) if needed, and the Department of Public Works, as well as police and fire departments, are prepared to respond. Town officials have already established communication with an Eversource liaison, he said.

“Eversource has a cache of dedicated resources that can be used to immediately address any life-safety issues that may arise in West Hartford,” said Priest.

Priest said websites like www.ready.gov offer detailed hazard-specific guides and advice, and offered a few specific tips for West Hartford residents and businesses:

  1. Monitor the weather progression and information relative to the storm. The weather and local situation can change quickly.
  2. Report power outages directly to Eversource online or at 800-286-2000.
  3. Have a personal, family, or business plan for handling a power outage. This may include securing extra ice for refrigerators, charging cell phones, ensuring flashlights are on hand, fueling generators or considering options for where you may go if you lose power for an extended period of time.
  4. Use caution with the placement of generators to ensure that hot mufflers are not in close contact with combustibles and that exhaust is properly vented to the outside. Similarly, use caution with alternate cooking sources like charcoal or propane grills.
  5. Do not approach downed trees or wires or attempt to cut or clear them. Whether a wire or tree is energized cannot be determined by looking at it. Eversource has more information at https://www.eversource.com/content/ct-c/business/outages/storm-preparedness/during-a-storm
  6. Limit travel to only necessary activities. Use extra caution if driving and do not drive through large pools of water. If you see yellow tape or other barriers around a tree or wire, do not attempt to travel through the area. A responder has deemed that a potential hazard exists, isolated the area, and has properly reported it.

“Lastly, life-threatening emergencies take precedence,” Priest said. “Reserve the use of 911 for emergencies. Travel hazards, flooding, and other non-emergency situations can be reported to the Public Safety Emergency Reporting Center at 860-523-5203.”

When there is a high volume of incidents, public safety responders must prioritize calls and Priest asked residents to be patient and trust that someone will respond to assess the situation.

“When contacting any agency, be as clear and specific with both the location and the situation you are reporting. Accurate information is paramount in ensuring the appropriate response,” he said.

Gov. Ned Lamont in the Emergency Operations Center. Photo credit: Christine Stuart, CTNewsJunkie.com

On Aug. 4, 2020, Tropical Storm Isaias hit Connecticut and more than 600,000 Eversource customers statewide were without power for an extended period of time.

Eversource President of Regional Electric Operations Craig Hallstrom said Thursday that the company is prepared for Elsa.

“Based on our forecast, based on what we see, we are appropriately prepared for this event,” Hallstrom said.

“We brought in crews earlier than normal. We were able to leverage those crews that we maybe normally wouldn’t have,” Hallstrom said Thursday.

Gov. Ned Lamont said Tropical Storm Elsa should be far less severe in terms of both wind and flood damage, and the leadership of utility companies in the state are aware that preparations need to be in place for rapid deployment.

“The PURA rules went into effect on July 1,” Lamont said. “And those PURA rules are very clear. They’re clear in terms of fines that are put in place if power is not restored within 96 hours.”

PURA Chairwoman Marissa Gillett. Photo credit: Christine Stuart, CTNewsJunkie.com

Eversource says it’s also prepared and ready to follow a new law that requires them to restore power within four days or have to reimburse customers $25 per day and up to $250 for any lost food and medicine.

State utility regulators proposed a $30 million civil penalty — the maximum allowed by law — against Eversource following Tropical Storm Isaias. Eversource is appealing the penalty in Superior Court.

“We have seen this movie before. It’s a horror movie. It didn’t end well last time. It better be better this time,” U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said.

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