CL&P crews, and their brethren from around the country including some from as far away as California, are working through the holiday weekend to get the remaining 762 customers without power in Madison restored as soon as they can.
That means 8 to 10 percent of the 9,048 customers served in Madison are still without power seven and a half days after Irene struck with full force between midnight and about 6 a.m. exactly a week ago. [Editor's note: that number dropped to 3 percent, or 278 people as of 9 p.m. Sunday and 1 percent as of 7 a.m. Monday, leaving 79 without power, according to the CL&P outage maps].
CL&P says crews are working not just in Madison, but in other towns in Connecticut as well, some of which are lagging behind Madison in terms of the percentage of customers still without power. In Andover, 23 percent are still without power; in Guilford, 14 percent, or 1,522 customers, are still without power; in Killingworth, 13 percent are without power; and in Lyme 16 percent are without power.
"CL&P is working through the holiday weekend. Rumors that utility crews are not working during the Labor Day Weekend are NOT TRUE," CL&P said in a prepared statement. "CL&P continues around-the-clock restoration efforts. Today, more than 1,800 crews are working to restore power to the approximately 27,000 homes and businesses left without power due of Hurricane Irene’s damaging wind and rains."
In Madison, there were crews working in the area of Chestnut Hill today, and on Route 79, and in the operations center at the North Madison Volunteer Fire Station. Some of those working at the operations center have not left since Sunday. They have spoken with some irate customers, but also have grateful customers bringing them homemade cookies and brownies. They declined to be quoted by name, citing company policy, but said they are giving it their all.
The complicated and potentially dangerous job of restoring power to 100 percent of the town began shortly after the storm, as crews from CL&P, and from other parts of the country who came in advance of the storm, moved to help clear main roads and to make sure that emergency responders could get through as needed. The next step was to send out spotters to evaluate where trees were down and to get information on the enormous scope of the work. First to get power was the town campus, where the police station and emergency operations center are based. Next was the downtown area, so that stores could start providing critical services and supplies, like gas, food, ice, and a hot cup of coffee and a hot meal. The plaza in North Madison where Roberts Food Center is based was another high priority restoration effort.
All along, the goal was "do it safely and get it done." The three main substations in Madison had to be restored, then the backbone lines, and only then could power start being restored to the single phase lines and transformers that supply the neighborhoods. The command centers in town hall near the south end of town and at the fire house in the north end of town worked with bird dog crews that would give directions to the tree and utility crews to ensure that the right materials and equipment were in place when they were needed.
In addition to evaluating and repairing the substations, backbone lines, transformers, and fuses and single phase lines running to the neighborhood, the crews also had to be careful to evaluate where generators were running and to work in a way so that everything was properly grounded, protecting them from generators that might be set up improperly, sending electricity back into the lines they are working on.
Crews working in Madison said the town appears to have a very high number of generators, a good thing for those who are using them, but another factor for the crews working in the neighborhoods.
"It's about getting it done safely, and getting it done as quickly as possible," said one crew member, who declined to be identified by name. "The effort we are putting into this storm restoration has been tremendous. It seems like just about everybody has a generator, so we have to set up grounds and work in the middle. Not all of them are set up properly with automatic disconnects. Then there is the effort of coordinating it. The bird dogs have to go ahead and evaluate everything so we don't send out a bucket truck when you need a digger that sets a pole if the pole is broken."
Perhaps that is little consolation to the hundreds of customers in Madison and the thousands across the state still without power. But the utility and tree crews are out there--from Connecticut, Arkansas, California, Lousianana, Indiana, and many other states--working their way to those customers who have suffered through this very long week.
Update from CL&P as of 8:15 p.m. Sunday:
99 Percent of CL&P Customers Have Power
Restoration efforts continue around the clock for remaining 11,600
Ninety-nine percent of Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) customers now have power. Full restoration is expected by midnight on Wednesday.
"While we reached another one of our goals a full day ahead of time, I realize that is little comfort for those customers still without power," said Jeff Butler, president and chief operating officer, CL&P. "Our commitment is to continue working around the clock until every customer is restored."
Across Connecticut, crews are working to complete repairs to CL&P's electrical system and clean up tree-related issues to restore power to the remaining 11,600 customers.
CL&P reminds customers that if your neighbors have power and you do not, please call CL&P at 800-286-2000.