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Irate Norwalkers Confront CL&P Over Outages

NORWALK, Conn. – Angry residents unleashed frustrations Tuesday night at City Hall about the prolonged power outages after Hurricane Irene and October's historic nor'easter to a panel that included officials from Connecticut Light & Power Co.

Most of the heated comments were directed at William J. Quinlan, recently named to the new position of CL&P senior vice president of emergency preparedness.

"There's no reason we had to live in the dark without toilets for more than a week," an irate David Davidson, a senior citizen from West Norwalk, told Quinlan.

"You have serious communications problems that must be fixed. I was told different things by different people whenever I called," said Davidson, who lost power for nearly eight days after the October snowstorm.

"When we were told Wednesday power would be restored Thursday, I believed it. When we were told Thursday power would be on by Friday, I believed it. But when we were still without power by Saturday, I realized I couldn't believe anything," said Davidson, adding that he had serious concerns for an elderly woman on his street who suffered greatly with the power outages.

The public session, arranged by state Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, also included Norwalk Fire Chief Denis McCarthy and city Public Works Director Hal Alvord, as well as Christopher C. Swan, director of municipal relations for Northeast Utilities, the parent company of CL&P.

Rozanne Gates, also of Norwalk, said she attended a similar meeting in Westport after Hurricane Irene and warned officials of serious problems.

"After Irene, I told you this could happen again, and sure enough, two weeks after that meeting, it did," Gates said. "We took in a 99-year-old woman who lost power for eight days who would not have survived in her own home. Something has to be done now."

Other residents spoke out about the lack of work crews in their neighborhoods, neighbors who had restored power while they were still in the dark and many power outages during storms over the past few years.

"We are working on all of these issues, from improving communications, getting more work crews out faster and more efficiently to the trouble spots," said Quinlan. "These were record-breaking storms. The October snowstorm resulted in 831,000 customers losing power, and that isn't a quick or easy fix.

"But we realize we need to do a better job in both preparing for these kinds of storms, and in restoring power once they occur," he said.

Quinlan was named to his new post after Jeffrey Butler, the embattled president and CEO of CL&P, resigned two weeks ago amid criticism of the company's slow response to power outages.

Quinlan said CL&P is preparing a report with recommendations it will submit next week to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's Two-Storm Panel that is investigating the power outages.

By the end of this week, Witt Associates, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm hired by Malloy to investigate storm response, will also report its findings.

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