Eversource says it has a good plan and is ready for Elsa
Officials at Connecticut’s largest electric utility insist they are prepared for the impact of Tropical Storm Elsa, while continuing to defend their response to a storm last August that left thousands without power for over a week.
Craig Hallstrom, the president of electric operations for Eversource, said Thursday that while the company did “a good job” during Tropical Storm Isaias, it has made several policy changes since that are designed to improve response times and communication with their customers.
“We have a very well-scripted, trained plan,” he said. “We have a very dedicated workforce who works tirelessly to keep our customers lights on and put them on when they go out.”
He said the company is preparing for a “Level Four” storm Friday that could impact up to 380,000 customers. He said the company will adjust it’s response as it assesses actual damage once the storm hits.
Gov. Ned Lamont said forecasts show Elsa likely will be much less severe than Isaias “both in terms of wind and in terms of flood damage.”
He said the state is taking a “trust but verify” approach with the utilities, making sure they are as prepared as they can be.
“You err on the side of caution,” he said. “Make sure you have more crews pre-deployed, ready to go than we had last time around. I thought last time around was a communications failure, people were flying blind. They need more capacity in their emergency response centers — particularly Eversource.”
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal sent a letter Thursday to Jim Nolan, Eversource’s chief executive officer, warning him that a repeat of the company’s “poor preparation and storm response” during Isaias will not be tolerated.
“Eversource has the professional crews to expertly repair lines and restore power but these important employees have received fewer resources than are necessary to adequately respond to storm damage,” he wrote.
Hallstrom said the company has already contracted about 500 extra crews and has tree-trimming teams out before the storm looking for limbs that could threaten power lines. He said they have 700 of their own line crews and 250 tree crews ready to respond to the storm.
Eversource also has created “new tools” that will allow community liaisons to get more and better information on the company’s restoration effort, Hallstrom said. He said new technology also will allow communities to inform the company of their priorities and see where and how many restoration crews are in their area.
But he said a new state law and regulatory rules that would impose penalties if electricity is not restored within four days won’t be driving the Eversource response.
“In all honesty, if tomorrow’s event was another Isaias, it’s not coming back in four days,” he said.