Storm knocks out Wilton
What started as a winter wonderland quickly turned into a nightmare as trees and wires fell during last week’s nor’easter on March 7, which dumped more than a foot of snow on Wilton. Another storm on Tuesday, the third major storm in a month not half over, added to the town’s woes but was not nearly as destructive as last week’s.
The March 7 storm was the second nor’easter to hit in less than a week. Five days earlier, a storm with winds as high as 60 mph knocked down trees, toppling them onto houses and power lines, leaving roads impassable and more than 500 Wilton residents without power.
“As we climbed out of the March 2 storm, the March 7 storm hit,” Wilton fire Chief Ronald Kanterman told The Bulletin.
Kanterman said the weight of the snow “brought down trees with wires” and “snapped poles all over town.”
More than 2,800 customers were left without power after the March 7 storm, and dangerous conditions during and after caused places like the Wilton Transfer Station and schools to close for several days.
Wilton Fire Department, Department of Public Works (DPW) and Parks and Grounds crews spent several days working to clear roads. At one time, there were more than 160 road blockages, said Kanterman, and low-hanging trees and poles prevented fire trucks from getting down most streets.
The fire department “created a tactical unit using a four-wheel-drive pickup truck with two firefighters carrying tools and medical bags,” said Kanterman, “which could, in most cases, get under the low-hanging debris.”
“It worked well for us and the town,” he said.
The fire department ran approximately 60 to 70 calls in the 72-hour period from the start of the storm though Friday, said Kanterman. In between calls, he said, fire personnel used chainsaws and other equipment for “road opening.”
With no known injuries to fire personnel or citizens, said Kanterman, “it was truly a team effort. … All town agencies pitched in to help open the roads and assist the power company with trees … so they could do their work.”
Between March 7 and 8, Wilton police logged 141 reports of road issues related to trees and wires and responded to 211 calls for service — four of which were accidents.
“In total, approximately 192 separate locations were identified on more than 100 separate roads as having a road condition, such as a downed tree and/or wire or trees leaning on wires,” the police department said in a March 13 press release.
At one point, more than 30 roads were completely closed, according to police — “nearly double the amount when comparing this storm to Hurricane Sandy.”
The police department thanked the fire department, EMS, DPW, and Parks and Recreation crews for their “tireless work,” as well as members of Wilton’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) for their “invaluable assistance.”
“On the day of the storm, we were deployed to New Canaan Road for downed trees and wires,” said Wilton CERT Operations Officer T.G. Rawlins.
The day after the storm, CERT members worked from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. One of their jobs that day was to shut down Route 7 to “allow Eversource to remove three trees hanging on wires and to re-energize 400 locations,” said Rawlins. “With a 30-minute notice, CERT was deployed.”
By March 9, CERT had been deployed for 133 man-hours with 20 of its members responding.
CERT volunteers worked closely with town agencies like the police and fire departments and DPW, said Rawlins, and participated in Emergency Operations Center meetings. Rawlins said CERT “focused on key roadways to make safe with signage and cones around downed wires and trees.”
“We utilized all our equipment, signs and cones we had available,” he said. “There were just too many locations to cover them all.”
The Bulletin requested information on how many hours DPW and Parks and Grounds crews put in, but received no reply.
Power loss and restoration
Eversource was faced with restoring power to more than 243,000 customers, replacing approximately 400 utility poles and stringing more than 110 miles of new overhead lines.
First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice communicated with residents via a reverse-911 phone call and invited people to email her with questions and concerns.
Although more than 500 Wilton customers had their power restored by Friday, there were still more than 2,000 without power two days after the storm. That evening, Eversource announced its Wilton customers would have power by 11 p.m. March 11.
In a robo call on March 9, Vanderslice said three Eversource crews were working in town to restore power, an effort she called “woefully inadequate.” By Saturday, March 12, there were 12 crews working in town and power restorations picked up. Nearly all residents were back on line by Sunday night.
In the meantime, the town’s Emergency Operations Center, Wilton Senior Center, Comstock Community Center, Wilton Library, and Riverbrook Regional YMCA were open to people in need of warmth and a place to charge their electronic devices.
The Riverbrook Regional YMCA also offered shower facilities to those in need, and the Wilton Fire Department set up a water station at its Danbury Road headquarters for residents in need of water.
Thank-you to residents
In its March 13 press release, the Wilton Police Department thanked residents for “their patience during this unprecedented weather event,” and for helping identify and track the storm damage, which in turn helped police “collaborate successfully with Emergency Operations Center personnel.”
“We could not have been successful without your support,” the police department wrote.