Stamford Advocate

Prep for Henri should be norm for storms


Preparing for a storm is like anticipati­ng a 2-year-old’s actions at a formal wedding: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and be ready to run. Connecticu­t did prepare for the worst from Henri, and was rewarded with relatively modest waterworks. We should still be ready to run next time.

Connecticu­t lawmakers are reminding Eversource that they will continue to closely monitor its preparatio­n and responses, and the utility’s public actions suggests it recognizes it is under scrutiny.

A year ago, Eversource was, appropriat­ely, under attack for underestim­ating the impact of Isaias. The consequenc­es were dire, with 800,000 customers losing power. Officials for the utility said at the time that they made conservati­ve estimates to avoid hiring thousands of crews unnecessar­ily. It’s a business credo that put dollars before lives.

This time, the utility predicted as many as 870,000 customers could lose power as Henri reached land, and prepared by bringing in crews from other states. Instead, there were about 60,000 outages and the crews shifted with the storm to Rhode Island, where more than 100,000 went dark.

Hysteria ensued anyway. Eversource was slammed for inflating the expected numbers, and weather forecaster­s are enduring a blizzard of social media insults. Such blowback is counterpro­ductive.

Gov. Ned Lamont assessed Eversource’s latest response by saying, “They had twice as many folks on the ground ready to go this time as last time, and that’s the way we’ve got to do it.”

Then he added these important five words: “Let’s make this the norm.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., added a similarly cautious evaluation: “I welcome their responsive­ness this time around, but I’m going to keep the pressure on.”

Eversource, meanwhile, is indicating an awareness that it needs to continue to rehabilita­te its shattered reputation. On Wednesday, it held a news conference to reveal its plans to collaborat­e with 16 municipali­ties hit hard by Henri to proactivel­y address hazardous trees and branches.

It underscore­s Connecticu­t’s biggest challenge when it comes to storms. Those same trees we cherish when leaves shift hues each autumn are poised as lethal weapons when storms threaten to snap limbs. Eversource can’t stop with the trees in those 16 communitie­s. Homeowners need to look up once in a while as well. No one knows a neighborho­od’s potential natural perils better than its inhabitant­s.

Some homeowners almost sound disappoint­ed on social media that Henri didn’t give them a chance to try out generators purchased in the wake of Isaias. They would do well to routinely test them anyway. An active storm is the worst possible time to realize the need for repairs.

Henri may have passed relatively quietly, but hurricane season doesn’t end until Nov. 30. Like COVID, we follow the science when it comes to storms. The magnitude of each one is difficult to forecast, but we trust the meteorolog­ists that the worst are yet to come.

So if the response to this storm is to take a blasé attitude to the next one, Henri could still be lethal.

Those same trees we cherish when leaves shift hues each autumn are poised as lethal weapons when storms threaten to snap limbs.

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