The worst that Hurricane Sandy could bring Connecticut appears to be looming: a historic storm surge in Long Island Sound, massive flooding in coastal towns and widespread destruction inland from sustained and powerful winds, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said during a press briefing Sunday morning.
“Think of the worst occurrence you’ve ever seen in those environments and then assume it’s going to be worse than that,” Malloy said. “We are talking about extensive flooding, maybe the worst we’ve seen in 70 years. The worst will be late tomorrow night. The amount of water the storm is expected to push into Long Island Sound is more than the shoreline can handle.”
Malloy again urged those living near the water in shoreline communities to get out and seek safety inland, especially those who live in southwestern Connecticut.
“If your local officials have told you to evacuate, I urge you to heed them. You’re taking your lives into your hands if you stay. Folks, don’t do that. It’s not worth the risk to you, your family or those who might be called to rescue you.”
Some towns and cities along the shore have already issued mandatory evacuations, including Bridgeport, East Haven and Fairfield.
The one bright spot in the current forecast for Sandy, Malloy said, is interior portions of the state may not see as much rain from the storm as originally predicted. Less rain means less interior flooding, he said.
Some 800 National Guardsmen have been called into active duty, Malloy said, and he has taken the unusual step of holding a conference call at noon with the chief elected officials of all Connecticut shoreline towns to assess the impact Sandy will have on their communities and the steps they are taking to safeguard their residents.
After that, he will speak with President Barack Obama about the state’s readiness and federal resources that could be made available.
While the outlook for Connecticut right now is not good Malloy sought some words of comfort and encouragement.
“We are doing everything possible to prepare for the impact of this storm. I have every confidence the people of Connecticut will and can withstand the next 48 hours. We have been hit before and we’ve gotten back up.”
Leaders of the state’s two main power companies, CL&P and United Illuminating, said they each have opened emergency operation centers in their headquarters that are being manned around the clock.
William Quinlan, senior vice president of emergency preparedness for CL&P, said the utility already has more than 1,000 additional workers in the state to augment the company’s repair crews and more are on the way. In all, CL&P intends to have as many as 2,700 additional workers on hand to help restore power.
A UI official said the company has updated its power outage estimates to more than 70 percent based on the expectations for severe flooding along the shoreline. James Torgersen, UI’s president, said the company’s power substations are below ground along the shoreline and would have to be shut down if they are flooded.
Both officials said residents should expect widespread and prolonged outages because of Sandy’s expected 36-hour duration and because work crews can’t be sent out during the storm. CL&P has estimated that as many as 600,000 power customers could lose electricity.
Power crews will need to spend at least 24 hours after the storm assessing the damages and removing trees from roads, before power restoration begins, Torgerson said.
“Our preparation activities continue to progress very well,” Quinlan said. “However, while we believe we are prepared it’s important for our customers and others to understand that we can’t prevent outages and people need to prepare for that.”
No decision has been made yet on suspending service on MetroNorth trains or Amtrak, though the state’s bus services will shut down as of midnight, Malloy said.