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Wilton: One Year After Hurricane Irene

WILTON, Conn. – After most of Wilton was left without power last year after Hurricane Irene and the October snowstorm, improving communication with Connecticut Light & Power and residents since Irene has been a focal point for Wilton officials.

“I thought we did a fairly decent job with the [October] storm,” said Wilton Fire Chief Paul Milositz, who is also the town's emergency management director.

“Meeting with townspeople [after Irene], we found that we didn’t do as good a job as we could communicating. During the snowstorm, we got better.”

That included telling residents about outages and where to get food, water and shelter, if needed, and how to stay in touch with CL&P, he said. Wilton crews participated in a statewide hurricane preparedness drill in June and also practiced its own drill in July.

One major takeaway Wilton learned from Irene, Milositz said, is making sure residents know about being prepared for lengthy outages. Residents should have three to seven days of food and supplies available in advance of a big storm, he said.

The majority of outages during the two storms was caused by downed trees, said Mitch Gross, CL&P spokesman. As a result, the utility that provides power to most of the state has spent about $100 million this year trimming trees.

“We continue to be diligent about pruning trees as needed," Gross said.

More than 809,000 customers lost power after the October storm, and Irene knocked out power to more than 700,000. Reports found that the worst-case scenario CL&P had planned for was 100,000 outages. 

Connecticut and its utility companies have also established “make-safe crews” that will go in before restoration crews to make sure roads are cleared of trees and live wires, said Scott DeVico, of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.

These crews should help speed up power restoration in areas hit by storms, he added. 

Communication has been another priority for CL&P, which has established liaisons with cities and town to share tools and information more quickly.

“A lot of hard work has gone into making sure that we’re prepared to respond to large-scale emergencies,” said Gross "We’ve put our system to the test many times in the past year, and I’m proud to say we’ve been able to demonstrate improved response.”

More than 165 municipalities across Connecticut took part in a four-day statewide emergency preparedness drill at the end of July. “Our initial results show that some of the new plans and communications procedures have been implemented successfully," DeVico said. 

Gross and DeVico both said that emergency preparedness is an ongoing process.

“We don’t start preparing once the storm hits,” DeVico said. “We’re preparing all year round.”

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