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Elsa Brings Flooding, Power Outages To Connecticut

Flooded highways, power outages and a landslip hit Connecticut Friday, as Tropical Storm Elsa dropped torrential rain on the state.  Issues with water on the roadway were reported on I-95 in Darien north and south between exit 11 and exit 10. The left lane was closed in both directions.  In addition, numerous local roads were closed because of water on the roadway. 

Southern Connecticut was especially hard hit, both by flooding and by power outages. Midday Friday more than 12,000 electrical outages were reported in the state, but restorations were well underway by late afternoon.

The storm also caused the partial collapse of an embankment near Metro-North railroad tracks in West Haven.

Gov. Ned Lamont said overall the storm did far less damage than Tropical Storm Isaias a year ago.

“This time less wind, less electric outages with Elsa but flooding. And the flooding is severe. And we’ve seen the flooding here affecting our rail.” said Lamont, speaking Friday at the West Haven train station.

About a mile away, a mudslide had affected an embankment near the northbound Metro-North train tracks. It did not cause any delays to service, but Lamont said it’s a reminder of the state’s infrastructure needs. “Resilience is not an abstract. Resilience is how you keep our economy going. And how you keep it going safely,” he said.

Lamont was joined by U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. He says he would use the embankment collapse to encourage his colleagues in Washington to approve President Joe Biden’s American infrastructure plan.

Street flooding was reported in parts of New Haven. Mayor Justin Elicker said officials in the Elm City were watching as the wind picked up in the middle of the day.  

“Our main challenge right now is we received a lot of rain,” he said. “Around two inches per hour had been coming down, so there is significant flooding around the city and a lot of streets that are ones we recommend you don't walk through or drive through because of the flooding. That can be potentially dangerous.”

Tree power line
Credit Tony Spinelli / Connecticut Public
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Connecticut Public
A tree on a power line that caused outages along Cheshire Street in Cheshire, on July 9.

Problems were also reported in Bridgeport, Milford, Cromwell, Stratford and Hebron, where part of Route 94 washed away.  

Sherwood Island State Park was closed because of flooded roads in the park, and Indian Well State Park closed because of flooding concerns. 

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is also tracking overflows of combined sewer systems, which carry both storm water and wastewater from homes and businesses. 

As of late morning, a spokesperson for the agency said there were overflows in Bridgeport, Greater New Haven, and Norwich. Volumes of the overflows will not be known until the discharges cease, according to the DEEP. The Metropolitan District (MDC) in Hartford reported no overflows as of mid-day. 

flooded football field
Credit Tony Spinelli / Connecticut Public
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Connecticut Public
A football field behind Barnard magnet school in new Haven is fully under water on July 9, 2021.

Officials are keeping a close watch on the response of utility companies to this latest storm.

And Eversource customers generally fared better than the last time a tropical storm hit Connecticut. The power company says that at its worst, Tropical Storm Elsa only put well under one percent of its customers in the dark, which pales in comparison to 2020’s Tropical Storm Isaias.

That event caused Eversource to face fines and intense scrutiny.

CEO Joseph Nolan said his company put new measures in place since Isaias. “Since that time, we were able to put in a community portal, which allows all of our communities to put in their priorities and have an exchange, and what I’ve found out from my discussions with everybody is that that community portal is really working and this enhancement to our emergency plan has been great,” Nolan said.

Nolan said Eversource’s use of external resources -- crews from Alabama, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Tennessee -- helped keep outages down during Elsa, which came in a week filled with severe weather.

“We’ve been able to pick it up very, very quickly,” Nolan said. “We had more outages prior to the storm coming in than we’ve actually had during the storm.”

He also credited the state’s help since it let crew trucks on the Merritt Parkway, where large vehicles are generally not allowed.

Before Elsa hit, Gov. Ned Lamont had stressed he hoped Eversource and United Illuminating had learned the lessons of Tropical Storm Isaias last August, which left thousands without power for an extended period.

“Err on the side of caution,” he urged the utilities. “Make sure you have more crews pre-deployed ready to go than they had last time around, I thought last time around was a communications failure. I think a lot of people were flying blind. They need more capacity in their emergency response centers, in particular Eversource.”

State regulators found problems with the storm preparation of both of Connecticut's largest electric companies in the wake of Isaias.  Eversource was particularly singled out for its shortcomings.

WSHU's Ebong Udoma contributed to this story.

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