Utilities assessing damage, helping get roads open

Utility companies said Tuesday they are more prepared to restore power after Hurricane Sandy than they were after last year’s storms.

United Illuminating said major damage was avoided Monday night due to what vice president Anthony Marone called a “heroic” effort by UI employees, National Guard troops and firefighters in Bridgeport and New Haven to protect two substations threatened by flooding.

The substation in Bridgeport was shut down to minimize damage that salt water could have caused during flooding. Water came within inches of the equipment, Marone said, but did not wet the circuits. The substation is now energized, but electricity is not flowing out.

Workers are now checking circuits in some 300 underground vaults in Bridgeport before restoring power to more than 35,000 people in Bridgeport alone, Marone said.

If the equipment in those vaults was not damaged, Marone said, lights could be back on during daylight hours today to that group of people.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the state is in “much better shape” for having shut down and protected the electrical equipment, and for steps taken after the long blackouts that followed Irene and last year’s October snowstorm.

That may have been helped by trimming, and because more leaves have fallen off trees.

“We did a lot better this time around,” Malloy said.

Connecticut Light & Power Vice President Bill Quinley said that while there were 300 out-of-state crews ready before Irene, Tuesday 1,000 visiting crews were ready to begin rebuilding the grid. Electricians have also been hired to attach service wires to houses, so that power will be back on as soon as transmission lines are fixed.

Priorities for today, he said, are to reopen roads, assess damage and fix major infrastructure.

Quinlan could not yet estimate when all electrical service would be restored.