Editor’s note: this video was shot on Thursday afternoon. Eversource showed up on site Friday morning. As of 1 PM Friday afternoon, Graenest Ridge Rd is open
Wilton Police Chief John Lynch has a message for Eversource: “We need help. We need you to be responsible.”
Friday morning, Aug. 7, more than 48 hours after the end of Tropical Storm Isaias, there are still 5,476 customers of the utility in Wilton without power. Multiple streets are still landlocked by trees that have brought down power lines and utility poles–and no one knows if the wires are still live. If fire trucks or an ambulance needed to get to residents on these streets, it would be impossible.
Chief Lynch met GOOD Morning Wilton at Graenest Ridge Rd., one such street where residents are trapped behind several fallen trees and downed wires, where Lynch suspects a tornado may have hit. Large, mature trees were ripped out at the roots, and branches twisted off at the tops of other trees are tell-tale signs that his assessment is correct.
Because the street is blocked not just at the entrance but at four other spots along its length, the only way anyone has to reach residents is by hiking through Bradley Park at the other end, where it dead-ends at a cul-de-sac. That’s the only way emergency crews could access Graenest Ridge Rd.–a three-quarter-mile walk along a wooded path, over hilly, rough terrain.
The road is on Wilton’s priority list–but no one at Eversource is communicating with Wilton officials about when Graenest Ridge Rd. will get attention from road-clearing crews. Wilton DPW personnel can’t do anything with wires involved, and the clock just keeps ticking.
Lynch told GMW that it’s been difficult to get anyone at Eversource to respond–partly because COVID has upended the standard operating procedure.
“What we’ve done in the past, they’ll assign a liaison for us. And normally we have our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) open in the Police Department and set up with computers and phones. And we would normally bring in the Eversource liaison to the EOC. But because of COVID, everything is remote. We have an assigned liaison; the problem we’re having is not with contacting her; the problem is her getting information from Eversource.”
Not getting information from Eversource is absolutely a safety concern, for many reasons.
“So, right now they’re promising crews, but they can’t confirm there are crews in town other than the fact that we spotted them. We don’t know what work they’re doing. They have shown up–they were on Cannon Rd. earlier, but that’s not a priority for us. We establish a list of priorities and those are mostly the landlocked people who can’t get in and out. Route 33 remains an issue–we do have the fire station just north of Nod Hill. So now if they have to go, they have to use the detour, which adds minutes to their response. Trying to get answers from Eversource is impossible at this point,” Lynch lamented.
The experience is incredibly frustrating for Lynch.
“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it, and I’ve been through at least four major storms. I understand the first 24 hours is difficult. But they’ve always cut-and-cleared within the first 48 hours. We had crews open the roads–not restore the power, but open the roads–so we can access them. It just seems like it’s falling on deaf ears and I know Wilton isn’t the only town having this issue. Our outage percentage is still 73%–it’s gone up if anything. But in the same breath, Eversource is claiming they’ve restored power to a couple hundred thousand people. I don’t know where that was,” he said.