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Isaias Arrives As Expected; Nearly 80% Of Town Still Without Power Wednesday Morning



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UPDATE (12:58 pm): This story has been updated to include information issued by the Newtown Emergency Management Team.

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Newtown residents woke up Wednesday morning to a landscape a little different than what surrounded them the previous morning. With the percentage of outages averaging between 75-80+ percent, the Town of Newtown Emergency Management Team promised to put pressure on Eversource until all homes and businesses were back online.

Tropical Storm Isaias arrived around 1 pm Tuesday with strong winds and rain. The weather event quickly began topping trees, which in many locations took utility wires with them. The town’s first responders began responding to calls at that time, and continued well into the evening.

Many homes were damaged by falling trees. No injuries were reported at any of those locations, however.

Tuesday evening, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal issued a CodeRED. At that time — around 7:30 pm — Rosenthal said that nearly 75% of Newtown’s residents were without power.

“Our Police Department, Public Works and volunteer fire companies will be working through the evening to identify blocked roads in coordination with Eversource.

“Our crews cannot remove trees from power lines unless they are first marked safe by Eversource,” his message continued. “I hope I am wrong, given the number of outages in the area, but I expect this effort to continue into tomorrow before we begin to see meaningful progress and power restoration.”

He urged residents to notify Eversource if they had lost power. The utility reported issues during the storm and into the overnight hours, however. Its system, according to online and recorded messages, was having difficulty receiving reports from many part of the state.

Wednesday morning, Eversource addressed those issues, saying in an e-mail that the utility "worked through the night to restore those channels but have continued to experience intermittent issues with them."

As he has done in the past, Rosenthal also asked residents to not move safety measures put in place.

“Please do not move cones or caution tape and attempt to go around downed trees,” he said. “This is not only extremely dangers but it ends up causing repeat calls for service to our already busy first responders.”

Rosenthal also reminded residents using generators that those machines should be placed “well away from your home, and especially from doors and windows.”

With winds expected to continue into the evening, he said, the safest place for people to be was in their homes and off the roads, to avoid falling limbs, trees and wires,

Rosenthal and the other members of the Emergency Management Team planned to meet Wednesday morning, to further assess damage and share updates, he said.

Winds calmed by sunset, but police, fire and ambulance crews continued responding to calls for help. Fire and ambulance crews were challenged when responding to a call at Newtown Rehabilitation & Health Care. A resident of the Toddy Hill Road healthcare facility needed to be transported to the hospital following a fall, but the driveway to the property was fully blocked by trees and wires.

It took firefighters from Botsford and Sandy Hook, police, and ambulance personnel to work with Newtown Rehab staff to forge a path along the driveway before the patient could be taken to the hospital.

At 10 am Wednesday, Eversource was still reporting 9,026 customers — or 78.76% of the town — still without power.

At the height of outages, more than 300,000 customers across Connecticut were reportedly without power following the tropical storm.

Governor Ned Lamont on Wednesday announced that proclaimed a civil preparedness emergency — also known as a state of emergency — in response to the widespread power outages caused by the impact of Tropical Storm Isaias across the state. The declaration authorizes the governor to order certain actions that will help expedite the response.

“With more than 700,000 customers experiencing power outages, we need to take several emergency steps that will facilitate restoration,” Lamont said. “I remain in consistent communication with municipal leaders and utility officials so that we can move resources to where they are most needed at this time. I continue to have regular communications with our Emergency Operations Center, which is managing both the response to this storm and our continued response to COVID-19.”

In an e-mail to customers late Wednesday morning, Eversource said the impact from the storm, "in terms of customers affected in Connecticut, is greater than Superstorm Sandy."

Local police and firefighters continued to respond to new reports of trees falling Wednesday morning, creating new closures around town. Traffic in the center of town, especially on the Church Hill Road corridor near I-84, was challenging due to signal lights not working for a few main intersections.

Button Shop Road was closed for a few hours Wednesday morning, after a large brush fire was reported in the area of that road's intersection with South Main Street. Botsford and Sandy Hook firefighters knocked the fire down quickly, and then needed an excavator to clear brush in order to douse all hot spots. Firefighters were there, and the road was closed, until nearly 11 am.

Emergency Management Update

Shortly after noon Wednesday, the Town of Newtown Emergency Management Team said it continued to work with Eversource to coordinate Make Safe operations in town, first to open roads that continued to be completely impassable due to by downed trees and/or wires and then to open roads with obstructions.

"Regretfully as of this morning there are at least 50 roads that are blocked. Resolving blocked roads is the primary focus before meaningful restoration can begin," the team said via announcement.

"We recommend you check with Eversource as to estimates for your specific power restoration. We hope to have better clarity later today or tomorrow as to timing for the town.

"Based on the extent of the damage to our community, and the lack of Eversource crews at present, it is reasonable to assume complete restoration of power will take several days or more. We will continue to put pressure on Eversource until this is resolved," the team added.

The team remains in constant contact and will reconvene later Wednesday, "and every day and will provide additional updates," the statement continued. "Newtown’s First Selectman and the Emergency Management Office continue to urge residents to be safe and stay informed. We appreciate your patience and understanding."

The team also reminds residents that COVID-19 is still around, so social distancing and mask protocols remain in place.

"Please — be sure to social distance, and wear a mask when you can’t. Masks in public places with other people are required," they said.

Wi-Fi, Water Sources

C.H. Booth Library is still closed to patrons, but CHB Director Doug Lord announced Wednesday morning that the building's wi-fi signal was operational and strong. Charging stations were also set up in the patio area on Wednesday, he announced.

Patrons responded, arriving at 25 Main Street to use their laptops and mobile devices.

Kaki Taylor was among the library employees setting up additional tables and chairs around 11 o'clock.

"We're still asking people to distance, but we're trying to offer as many locations for people to work as we can," she said.

In order to have more space for people to utilize the outdoor space, the library canceled its patio browsing for the day. Residents can still contact the library to ask for materials to be left at curbside, which moved to the rear parking lot for Wednesday.

The courtyard of Edmond Town Hall, a few doors north, at 45 Main Street, was also filling with people using their laptops and cell phones Wednesday morning. Business was brisk next door at Newtown General Store, where full power meant full food service all morning.

The Emergency Management Team has announced the following locations are also available: Newtown Municipal Center, 3 Primrose Street, open Monday through Friday 7 am to 9 pm; Newtown Community Center, 8 Simpson Street, Monday through Friday from 7 am until 9 pm; and Newtown High School, 12 Berkshire Road, also weekdays between 7 am and 9 pm.

"Be mindful that many residents may need this assistance; we may need to monitor and allocate time, as such your time may not be unlimited and we ask that you consider others," the team said in its released. "Also, please bring your own device adapter and charging cable, and power strip and/or extension cord, if possible."

Newtown Community Center opened late Wednesday, at 8 instead of 6, and its lap pool did not open, but the Recreational and Therapy pools were both available for members. Showers were also available for members, according to a post on the center's Facebook page.

Water is available at Botsford firehouse, 315 South Main Street; Newtown Hook & Ladder's station, 12 Church Hill Road; and Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue's main station, 18-20 Riverside Road.

Water is also available at the Parks & Rec garage, 2 Trades Lane. Residents need to bring their own buckets or water carriers.

Cancellations & Postponements

Tonight's Legislative Council meeting and a Board of Education special meeting have both been canceled. The Board of Ed meeting has been rescheduled for Thursday, August 6, at 1:30. It will be a virtual meeting. Details on joining the meeting will be included in the agenda once posted.

The August 6 Newtown Bee Diversity Discussion has been postponed, Associate Editor John Voket has announced. A new date will be announced.

Newtown Parks & Rec Wednesday morning issued a list of canceled programs for the day. Day Camp is closed for the day, Tennis Camp is canceled, Cartooning and Puppetry are canceled, Middle School volleyball is canceled, and Torpedoes Swim Team is canceled.

In addition, Dickinson and Treadwell parks are both closed, as is Eichler’s Cove, all due to trees and wires. All town playing fields, including artificial turfs, are closed for the day.

Nighthawk Basketball was still scheduled, as of mid-morning. It has since been canceled.

Early Wednesday afternoon, Parks & Rec also announced the cancellation of the August 6 Claris Construction/Newtown Parks and Recreation outdoor concert by Cold Duck Time. The concert at Dickinson Park "has been canceled due to many power outages for the band members and travel difficulties. We hope to reschedule this concert," Parks & Rec announced via Facebook.

This is a developing story. Updates will be posted as available.

John and Vicki Boccuzzi stand in front of C.H. Booth Library late Wednesday morning, after Tropical Storm Isaias blew through the region the afternoon and night before. At 11:30 Wednesday morning, 89% of Newtown's Eversource customers were without power, an increase of 8% from a few hours earlier. —Bee Photo, Hicks
A mature tree fell across The Boulevard Tuesday night, closing that main thoroughfare. Wednesday morning, the large tree was still blocking the roadway. —Bee Photo, Scott Baggett
With the signal lights inoperable on Church Hill Road Wednesday morning, drivers were contending with stop signs and right-of-way navigation. It didn't always work, and was further complicated by many people trying to fuel up at the gas stations on both sides of Church Hill Road. —Bee Photo, Hicks
A customer leaves Newtown General Store Wednesday, when business was very brisk for the Main Street eatery. Nearly 80% of the town was without power by daybreak, and the number increased to 86% by late morning. —Bee Photo, Hicks
A Frontier technician begins cleaning up after his crew replaced the utility pole on the left, at 30 Church Hill Road, following Tuesday's tropical storm. It took the crew 45 minutes to do that job. "Unfortunately we've had to do a number of these replacements," one crew member said. "We've gotten very good at doing this." —Bee Photo, Hicks
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