STAMFORD, CT — As thousands of Stamford residents continue to wait for their power to be restored following Tropical Storm Isaias' path through Stamford Tuesday, Mayor David Martin has released a statement slamming Eversource's response efforts thus far.
The statement was released Thursday evening following the company's "inadequate storm response and vague updates," Martin said.
According to the company's outage map, nearly 6,000 Stamford residents are still without power as of 6:30 p.m. Thursday. (To sign up for Stamford breaking news alerts and more, click here.)
"Eversource has failed to demonstrate adequate preparation ahead of Tropical Storm Isaias," Martin said in a statement, "its response effort so far has been abysmal, and they inexplicably continue to fail to communicate anything of any substance to my administration or the public."
Martin said he and other city officials participated in a call with the company Thursday morning, during which a representative "could not provide any estimate of when Stamford's roads could finally be cleared" or "commit to timely response to Stamford's 911 priority incidents."
The mayor also said the company "refused to provide any meaningful coordination or assistance with [the city's] public safety response teams" and "could not provide any information on how many Eversource crews were working in Stamford."
Martin also accused the company of being "unable to provide direct contact information" for their operations management team overseeing response and restoration efforts.
"Our priority issues were to be forwarded to a coordinator, who would then forward the priority to another coordinator, who would then forward them to Eversource's operations management," Martin said. "In the midst of a crisis, this is bureaucratic nonsense."
Martin said he and his team agreed the company's "lack of response and communication" was unacceptable.
"If Eversource is unwilling to provide information to the public safety team of one of Connecticut's largest cities, I can only imagine the frustration and outrage our residents are experiencing," Martin said, "many of whom have no power and no estimate for when it will return."
When reached for comment Thursday, Eversource spokesperson Mitch Gross said the company's line and tree crews were working "around-the-clock" to repair the widespread damage to electric systems across the state.
He also noted utility crews from Canada, Michigan and Massachusetts are assisting in the major restoration effort, with additional outside crews arriving in the state over the next 24 hours. Crews are also performing work while adhering to "strict COVID-19 pandemic safety protocols," he said.
The company is currently focused on clearing downed trees and branches in order to open up access to blocked roads.
According to Craig Hallstrom, the company's president of regional electric operations, the entire Eversource team is working with "an extreme sense of urgency" to restore residents' power. The company is Stamford's sole electrical utility company.
"We understand our customers' frustration and know it is an especially challenging time to be without power, given the ongoing pandemic and hot summer weather," Hallstrom said in a statement. "Our entire Eversource team is dedicated to this effort and is working with an extreme sense of urgency to get all of our customers the power they need. The impact from this storm and its widespread damage can't be overstated. We've made good progress repairing incredible damage across our service territory. We have hundreds of crews spread out across the state addressing more than 10,000 damage locations and working to rebuild the electric system."
According to the company, Eversource crews had restored power to more than 332,000 customers as of 11:30 a.m. Thursday, and approximately 533,000 Eversource customers in Connecticut remained without power as of that time.
Martin expressed concern for residents who are working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as those who need electricity to refrigerate food or medicine.
"With so many people working from home, Eversource's actions — or lack thereof — are inexcusable," Martin said. "While the power outages are the result of a particularly damaging storm, this does not excuse Eversource for their lack of preparation, nor their inability, or unwillingness, to effectively communicate or work with the city of Stamford."
According to Martin, the city has offered to collaborate with Eversource to provide faster restoration efforts by utilizing "Make Safe" crews, a joint operation in which Eversource crews would verify lines were disconnected and safe, allowing Stamford road crews with heavy equipment to clear the road of debris.
Make Safe crews would also work with the city's 911 center to address high priority public safety concerns, such as clearing the way for an ambulance to get to an emergency call. According to the mayor, Eversource has not assigned staff for Make Safe crews in Stamford.
"As of noon [Thrusday], Eversource is currently holding up approximately 60 public safety high-priority issues and have not communicated when these issues might be addressed," Martin said. "I am shocked Eversource refuses to work constructively with us, considering Connecticut residents have the third-highest electricity costs in the entire country, behind only Hawaii and Alaska. Despite these higher costs, our residents are receiving terrible service in the wake of storm Isaias."
Martin also noted the company has had "plenty of opportunities" to learn through events like Superstorm Sandy or the Winter Nor'easter that hit the state in March 2018.
In their statement, Eversource reminded customers to stay clear of downed wires, report them immediately to 911 and to be cautious while moving or cutting tree limbs, as wires may be tangled in debris.
The company also reminds customers without power who plan to use a generator to be sure the generator is located away from their home or business and that the transfer switch is working properly.
Martin's full statement can be read here.
On Wednesday, city officials provided the following list of information and resources available for residents affected by the storm:
Life threatening emergencies should be reported to 911.
Power outages and downed power lines should be reported immediately to Eversource at 1-800-286-2000.
For non-emergency weather related issues should be reported to the citizen's service line at 203-977-4140 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., or at 203-977-4444 during after hours.
Residents without power are strongly advised against using generators or grills indoors. Generators and grills can cause lethal carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not use a generator or grill indoors. Place them outside as far from your home as possible.
Residents can sign up for emergency alerts by visiting www.ctalert.gov, clicking on "register for alerts" and inputing their contact information.
Patch's live updates of Tuesday's storm can be found here.