A knocked out power to more than 1,000 households in Madison. As of 10 p.m. on Friday, power had been restored to all but one unfortunate customer in town, but even some of those who had their power back were not entirely happy.
For some Madison Patch readers on Facebook, the power outage was not the only frustrating part of that experience. Several reported on Facebook that they were having problems getting reliable restoration estimates from CL&P, and that communication from the company on this important bit of information was not timely.
A company spokesman said Thursday night that the nature of the storm, repeated rounds of wind gusts Wednesday night and throughout the day Thursday created a situation where CL&P would fix one outage, only to find another one cropping up across town. He said that made it difficult for the company to provide estimates for some households.
I understand that.
Still, having weathered Irene, then the freak October snowstorm, then Sandy, and several other minor weather or other events that knocked power out, I've begun to realize how important it is to have an estimate as to when power is going to be restored.
That's true any time of the year. Will the food in the fridge and freezer have to be moved to the house of a friend who has power? In the winter, the question becomes, how long can we stay in the house before it gets too cold? If a family member is sick with a cold or the flu, that question becomes even more important.
Are we really to the point where we all should have generators for essential services in our house, along with woodstoves to tide us over during repeated power outages and the uncertainty that comes along with that? I'm not a prepper by any stretch of the imagination, but being without power gets old quickly.
Phil Steiner, who lives on Allison Drive in Madison, says he was frustrated during the outage this past week, not only with CL&P's inability to give a timely restoration estimate, but also by the town's inability to provide more information to people who remained without power for a full day.
"Where is CL&P? Where is the town?" he said in response to a story on the power outages. "At 5:30 Thursday night, when 374 houses were out, the town phone went to voice mail--leave a message. Where is the emergency liaison with CL&P that our First Selectman was so happy to report on after Irene? Unreachable."
Steiner then called Madison Police Department dispatch, on the non-emergency line.
"The police dispatcher, when I called on the non-emergency line, was able to reach the liaison on his cell. The dispatcher told me the liaison was getting no information from CL&P either," Steiner said. "What improvements were made in the wake of Sandy and Irene?"
Steiner then called a supervisor at CL&P customer service, at 5:45 PM yesterday, that told Steiner that his neighborhood was "not a priority," Steiner said. Steiner said he found this frustrating, along with the fact that 18 hours after the power went out, there were still a tree on the wires close to the neighborhood.
"Where is the town government's response to CL&P's evident indifference?" he asked. The power finally came back on, on Allison Drive, sometime between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Friday.
First Selectman Fillmore McPherson said Friday afternoon that he has seen some improvement in CL&P's efforts to communicate with the town, but that there is still room for more improvement.
McPherson was careful to make the distinction between the kind of information the town is seeking, and the kind of information individual households might need in the wake of a storm.
The town needs information from CL&P to facilitate coordinate among the utility, the town's emergency responders, and the town's public work crews so that emergency situations, including blown transformers, and trees tangled in wires obstructing public roads, can be dealt with in a timely manner.
During the outages that took place on Wednesday and Thursday, McPherson said he also was getting some information from the company about which streets were out of power. By Thursday, the company was able to identify which parts of town had the largest outages. "We were able to communicate back and forth on that," he said. He said at one point on Thursday, "practically every street had somebody [without power], there were very widespread outages."
McPherson said he heard from several people in town that restoration estimates were not provided in a timely manner.
"At the bottom of it, the estimates of restoration are still going to have to come from CL&P. I'm getting some comments from people about shifting information from CL&P. My thrust has been to make sure they are moving on all fronts," he said.
McPherson said he plans to continue to press CL&P to improve its communication and coordination, and that he has another meeting planned for next week to discuss that with company officials.
If you could make a suggestion to McPherson as to what he should ask CL&P officials on behalf of people who live in town, whether at this meeting or another meeting, what would that be?