HARTFORD, Conn. Connecticut Light & Power Co. was not only unprepared but also made critical mistakes and was seriously undermanned during the historic Oct. 29 snowstorm that knocked out power to a record 809,000 customers across the state, concluded a blistering report issued Friday by former FEMA director James Lee Witt.
"CL&P also knew it was making a false promise when it said all power would be restored in Connecticut on Nov. 6, more than a week after the storm," according to the report by the Washington, D.C.-based Witt Associates. Power wasn't completely restored until Nov. 9.
The report also criticized state and local governments, which did not communicate well with each other and the state during and after the storm. Those findings, and a long list of others, have bolstered conclusions by Gov. Dannel Malloy's Two-Storm Panel appointed to investigate Hurricane Irene in August and the October nor'easter.
Increased training and better planning as well as an improved communications strategy by the utility companies and state and local officials are essential to averting similar problems during future storms, Witt Associates said.
"We have plans in place at the state and municipal levels, but there isn't one, centralized master plan that shows how state government should interact amongst its own agencies, and how the state should coordinate its own activities with those of the utilities and municipal governments," said Malloy.
Joseph McGee, co-chairman of the Two-Storm Panel, said the Witt report will "greatly help our panel in formulating recommendations to better prepare for future storms.
"It's quite striking to me that the (Witt) report has reached many of the same conclusions that are emerging during our hearings," said McGee.
In fact, McGee said, evidence shows Connecticut is due for a Category 3 Hurricane, which could knock out power to some for more than a month.
The Witt report states that CL&P's "worst-case scenario in the company's emergency response plan considered outages over 100,000 customers, or less than 10 percent of their total customer base." But the report pointed out that more than two-thirds of CL&P customers lost power during the October snowstorm, many for as long as 10 days.
"We can only imagine what would happen during a strong hurricane," McGee said.
The report is also critical of CL&P's failure to put enough power crews in place quickly to begin restoring electricity.
"It should come as no surprise to anyone that CL&P was completely unprepared for a storm of this magnitude. But the extent to which they were unprepared is troubling," Malloy said Friday.
"We have to work to improve the way we communicate with public utilities and with each other," he said. "We need to pull the best parts from the different emergency strategies we have in place and come up with a master plan for getting power back on as quickly as possible."
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