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Malloy, Utilities Begin Damage Assessments

CL&P says it can give no estimate yet of when power will be fully restored.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and utility officials are traveling the state this morning, assessing the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy and determining which areas were hardest hit and need the most help first.

In a morning briefing on the storm, Malloy said: “We took a big hit over the past few days and … now it’s our jobs to get people's lives back to normal as quickly as possible.”

William Quinlan, a senior vice president for CL&P, said more than 600,000 customers were without power at the height of the storm last night but the utility was able to restore electricity to 135,000 of them by this morning.

He said the company couldn’t yet give an estimate of when power will be restored to all of its customers and is beginning work this morning on assessing the damage to its power system. There are 11 transmission lines that were taken out by the storm and officials will be using a helicopter today to get a look at the damage. United Illuminating currently has about 144,000 of its customers without power.

Malloy said the hardest hit areas of the state were the shoreline, from Greenwich to Stonington.

One of his other tasks this morning, he added, is to assess whether some people are still stranded or trapped by water in their shoreline homes, which Malloy said some refused to leave last night.

He also defended his decision, at 9:15 p.m., to call an urgent briefing where he said he feared thousands might be trapped in their coastal homes because they either refused to leave or their community leaders did not issue mandatory evacuation orders, as Malloy had requested.

Malloy said he became particularly alarmed after learning that a “gigantic” surge of water was rapidly entering the sound around 8 p.m.

“It became clear that potentially thousands of people who were not evacuated were in harm’s way,” he said. “What I was most fearful of was who was going to go into the water, who was going to try to swim to land and who was going to try to drive through water that was going to cover the car.”

It’s unclear this morning, he added, how many people remained in their homes over night and who might still be stranded.  

There were two deaths associated with Sandy, one an elderly woman in Mansfield who was struck by a falling tree while making her way to a neighbors and the other an Easton firefighter killed while responding to an emergency. Malloy said he and the rest of the state grieve their loss.

The governor this morning lifted the travel ban on state highways, but has asked all nonessential state employees to remain at home. Schools across the state, he added, remain closed again today.

He said he expects the Obama administration to now move quickly on declaring the state a disaster area, a move that would begin the flow of federal recovery aid.

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