Looking back at major events leading up to, during and after Tropical Storm Isaias tore through area

Published on Tuesday, 11 August 2020 15:37


Tropical Storm Isaias left hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents without power for several days in its wake and some for over a week. The storm caused massive devastation in the state, uprooting countless trees and wreaking havoc on utility lines.

At its peak, more than 700,000 were without power in the state between Eversource and United Illuminating customers. Bristol at one point had more than 14,000 - about half the city - without power, and New Britain had more than 7,000 in the dark, or about 20% of the city. Towns like Plainville and Southington had about half of the town without power, while Plymouth at one point had about 80% of the town in the dark.

This week, Eversource Spokesperson Mitchell Gross explained part of the process in the power company’s filing to state regulators regarding how many outages it anticipated - which turned out to be about half of the actual number.

“From the time we declared our initial level based on our best available tracking models at the end of last week, the storm’s path deviated from those models and we reclassified the storm accordingly as our models dictated, which is a typical utility practice once a storm hits,” Gross explained. “State regulators require that we file prior to securing any outside storm restoration resources. We filed on Friday, July 31 or risked losing crews to another utility.”

The state hadn’t seen this many power outages in years. Here’s a look back at some of the major events leading up to, during and after the storm tore through Connecticut like a rabid animal:

July 27: The National Hurricane Center (NHC) says a tropical disturbance in the Atlantic has an 80% chance of strengthening into a tropical depression or a tropical storm within 48 hours.

July 29: Tropical Storm Isaias forms over the Caribbean Sea, according to the NHC.

July 31: Isaias is upgraded to a hurricane. Eversource files a pre-staging resources notice with the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) in Connecticut, saying it expects between 125,000 and 380,000 of its customers to lose power.

WFSB-TV meteorologists say the hurricane is exhibiting sustained 75 mph winds and expect it to reach southern New England between Aug. 4 and 5. WFSB Meteorologist Mark Dixon calls for “perhaps even some tropical storm force winds” in Connecticut.

Aug. 1: Isaias reaches the Bahamas and weakens to a tropical storm.

Aug. 2: Isaias grazes Florida and moves along Georgia’s coast.

Aug. 3: Isaias causes coastal flooding in South Carolina and intensifies back into hurricane status. It makes landfall in North Carolina shortly after 11 p.m. and is downgraded to a tropical storm.

WFSB-TV Meteorologist Bruce DePrest says Connecticut is at risk for “severe thunderstorms, heavy rain and gusty winds.” He says there is a real concern for flash flooding, wind damage, power outages and tree damage; and says there is a “pretty good chance” for some “moderate coastal flooding,” adding that there is a tornado threat as well.

United Illuminating files for pre-stage resources with PURA, saying it expects anywhere between 95,800 and 159,967 of its customers to lose power.

Aug. 4: Tropical Storm Isaias moves up along the east coast and reaches Connecticut. In the early afternoon hours, first responders in area towns begin seeing a surge in calls for trees and wires that are coming down, some of which are causing small fires. Police and firefighters respond to numerous trees that have fallen onto roads, on top of cars and into houses. More than 700,000 customers of both Eversource and United Illuminating lose power.

Aug 5: Eversource’s peak number of customers without power reaches 632,000, which is about half of the state that is serviced by the power company. United Illuminating has a little over 100,000 customers with no electricity. Eversource says hundreds of line, tree and service crews worked through the night.

Gov. Ned Lamont declares a state of emergency and calls for PURA to investigate both Eversource’s and United Illuminating’s preparedness for the storm and to evaluate their response to widespread outages. PURA says it is opening an investigation into both of the state’s power companies.

Aug. 6: Eversource says it has local crews and those from Canada, Michigan and Massachusetts working around-the-clock to restore power, while about 533,000 of its customers are without power, which includes about 42% of Bristol, 12% of New Britain, 41% of Plainville, 49% of Plymouth, 31% of Southington, 26% of Newington and 27% of Berlin.

After applying for an emergency declaration a day earlier, Lamont speaks to President Donald Trump over the phone to explain why Connecticut needs assistance.

Aug. 7: Lamont learns from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that he has received approval of a presidential emergency declaration following the Tropical Storm Isaias.

About 396,289 around the state – roughly 31% of Connecticut serviced by Eversource – remain without power. Eversource, now using crews from Canada, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio and Indiana, estimates its restorations will be substantially complete (which is defined as fewer than 1% of its customers still without power) by 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 11.

Aug. 10: Eversource’s customers without power falls to around 73,000, or just under 6% of the state serviced by the power company. Sen. Richard Blumenthal demands Eversource issue refunds to its customers and calls for its CEO to step down.

Aug. 11: By the afternoon hours, Eversource has its outages down to about 26,600 customers, just over 2% of the state serviced by the power company. The company maintains it will meet its goal of having fewer than 1% of its customers without power by 11:59 p.m.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Bristol, Plainville, Plymouth, Southington Herald, Terryville on Tuesday, 11 August 2020 15:37. Updated: Tuesday, 11 August 2020 15:39.