The New York Times
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Few of the people here parading around the streets with snow shovels on Sunday needed any reminder of the region’s string of natural disasters in recent years: Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, and a rare pre-Halloween snowstorm.
But as parts of the state dug out from 3 feet or more of snow, there was no avoiding it.
In Old Lyme, Conn., Beth Hamilton and her husband, Matthew Barrett, were among 80 percent of the town who lost power on Friday night. They were still without power on Sunday night.
“We lost power in both of the hurricanes — for five days during Irene, and six days during Sandy. So we’re not having a lot of luck,” said Hamilton, the mother of four children from age 3 to 16. “Last night, it got down to zero degrees. It was brutal.” She added, “If we ever do make it through this, the first thing we’ll do is buy a generator.”
The storm that slammed into the region with up to 3 feet of snow was blamed for at least 15 deaths in the Northeast and Canada, and brought some of the highest accumulations ever recorded. Still, coastal areas were largely spared catastrophic damage despite being lashed by strong waves and hurricane-force wind gusts at the height of the storm.
Connecticut was hardly alone in being buried in the snow, but it seemed to suffer the worst of the storm. While much of the concerns on eastern Massachusetts, no area was hit harder than Connecticut, where the town of Hamden took top snowfall honors: 40 inches.
Five of the 11 deaths attributed to the storm in the Northeast occurred in Connecticut. By Sunday evening, Connecticut Light and Power said it had restored service to more than 60,000 customers. Fewer than 7,000 customers remained without power, most of them in the southeastern corner of the state.
President Obama signed a disaster declaration for Connecticut, the fifth such instance in the two-plus years Dannel P. Malloy has been governor, a wearying tape loop of natural chaos — with tragedies like the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December and the previous year’s fatal Christmas Eve fire in Stamford added to the mix — that seems a long way from the state’s traditional reputation as the low-drama “Land of Steady Habits.”
“You learn from each of these but I think it’s time for some other governor to learn,” Malloy said in an interview on Sunday. “Some other state can have this experience.”
Malloy said the State Police had responded to some 400 accidents since the storm, with three dozen resulting in injuries. State officials also had received reports of a half-dozen roof collapses, and about 200 people were in three shelters in East Lyme, Stonington and Groton.
With communities largely paralyzed by unplowed streets and stalled motorists, residents in New Haven, Hamden, West Haven and East Haven were warned to stay home Monday. Major employers have announced they will be closed. In some areas in the eastern part of the state it could be several days before all streets are plowed.
“I know that people are impatient, but I remind everyone that this is a record snowfall, the likes of which our state has never seen, or not seen since the 1880s,” Malloy said.
Not everyone viewed the storm as a disaster.
In Canton, Peter and Dawn Siana made the best of the blizzard by snow-blowing a little ski course in their front yard for their three sons, ages 8, 7 and 3. The boys also designed and constructed their own giant igloo, using cube-shaped molds.
“I’ve never seen them so busy,” Dawn Siana said. “They can’t get enough of it.”
In Avon, Mary Jane Bingham was thankful for a neighbor’s help with the snow plowing and the ginger and carrot bisque she made for them to share.
“The sun is out, we have power and haven’t lost any trees! Really can’t complain too much!” she said in an email.
But, losing trees and power has been common in Connecticut in recent storms, including the pre-Halloween snowstorm in 2011 in which 830,000 people in the state lost power, breaking the record set a few months earlier by Hurricane Irene.
In Old Lyme, Hamilton and family have been surviving this particular storm by keeping a woodstove burning in their home, built in 1667, on a country dead-end road. Since they are on an electricity-powered well, they have no water.
“When we heard the storm was coming, Matt brought in a ton of wood. But we only have enough left for maybe a day or so. If we don’t get power back before then, I don’t know what we’ll do.”
Hamilton said her family has been cooking chili, soup, and bacon and eggs on the wood stove, and huddling around it in multiple blankets. “I also heat water on there to do dishes, which is about as primitive as you can get,” she said.
Utility crews, some brought in from as far away as Georgia, Oklahoma and Quebec, raced to restore power to more than 220,000 customers — down from 650,000 in eight states at the height of the storm. In hardest-hit Massachusetts, where some 180,000 customers remained without power on Sunday, officials said some of the outages might linger until Tuesday.
Driving bans were lifted and flights resumed at major airports in the region that had closed during the storm, though many flights were still canceled Sunday.
The Boston-area public transportation system, which shut down on Friday afternoon, partially resumed subway service and some bus routes on Sunday. Beverly Scott, general manager of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, said full service was expected on Monday — albeit with delays.
On eastern Long Island, which was slammed with as much as 30 inches of snow, hundreds of snowplows and other heavy equipment were sent in Sunday to clear ice- and drift-covered highways where hundreds of people and cars were abandoned during the height of the storm.
More than a third of all the state’s snow-removal equipment was sent to the area, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, including more than 400 plow trucks and more than 100 snowblowers, loaders and backhoes.
The National Weather Service was forecasting rain and warmer temperatures in the region on Monday — which could begin melting some snow but also add considerable weight to snow already piled on roofs.
For some, the storm was truly catastrophic.
Andy Mastrogiannis, 59, of New Milford, died Friday night soon after shoveling snow. Among those mourning were his sister-in-law, Corinne Thompson, and brother-in-law and best friend, Bill Thompson of New Preston, Conn.
Bill Thompson, who had worked with Mastrogiannis on a farm estates in Bridgewater, had often helped him plow driveways during snowstorms. Distraught, Bill Thompson had to go back to his own work plowing roads in the storm, his wife said.
Along the way, around 1:30 a.m., Thompson’s truck broke down, and he, his son and his dog had to walk along a rural road in Bridgewater, in white-out, blizzard conditions, for almost two miles until help came. They were driven to Thompson’s other truck, and continued to plow driveways and roads until 8 a.m. Saturday.
As he was pulling in to his driveway, Thompson’s truck got stuck in a giant snow drift. Friends and neighbors pushed and pulled on Sunday to get it out.
“He got home, chugged some Jack Daniels and passed out,” Corinne Thompson said. “He got up a couple of hours later and went to the funeral home to make arrangements for Andy. Then he went back out plowing. He was an emotional wreck, but that’s what he had to do. People are desperate out there; no one can get out.”
Includes material from The Associated Press