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[UPDATED] Schools Reopen, Halloween On, as West Hartford Recovering Well From Sandy

All but three of West Hartford's public schools will be open on Wednesday and power restoration work is underway. Parents are asked to make a decision about trick-or-treating based on the condition of their neighborhood.

[UPDATED] 9:00 p.m.

A spokesperson from Northwest Catholic High School has advised that the school will be open for normal operations tomorrow.

WHC-TV recorded Mayor Scott Slifka's statement regarding the status of storm restoration in West Hartford. That video can be viewed here.

ORIGINAL STORY

West Hartford weathered the wrath of Hurricane Sandy without much major damage, and activity in town is slowly returning to normal.

On Tuesday afternoon, Assistant Superintendent for Public Schools Tom Moore announced that schools WILL be in session on Wednesday in West Hartford. However, school will NOT be in session at Aiken, Bristow, and Charter Oak, all of which were still without power Tuesday evening.

Town officials made the decision not to close down the entire district, only the affected schools. Moore will broadcast that information in an emergency call through the West Hartford Public School's notification system.

An estimate on power restoration at the affected schools has not yet been provided. "We will be making contingency plans, and there will be further announcements regarding those schools on Wednesday afternoon," Moore said.

West Hartford Police Chief Tracey Gove said he is concerned about intersections where traffic lights are still out, especially with schools back in session. "We will have officers at those intersections during morning and afternoon rush hours," Gove said.

Kingwood Oxford School is still without power and will remain closed Wednesday, spokesperson Michelle Murphy said Tuesday afternoon. Northwest Catholic could not be reached for comment.

The Department of Public Works has spent the day clearing tree damage and re-opening affected roads. Director John Phillips said that work on the pine tree which fell on Boulevard, between Mountain Rd. and Ridgewood Rd., was a "struggle" because it was sitting on a 23,000 volt line.

"It took eight hours, but it is done," Phillips said. Power has been restored to several hundred customers in that area as a result of the work.

Part of Hunter Dr. remained inaccessible Tuesday afternoon due to fallen trees and power lines. "Hunter will be open tonight," Phillips said. He anticipated that the job would take at least four to five hours to complete.

The number of West Hartford CL&P customers without power has begun to fall, from a high of approximately 4,500 to 3,934 (14 percent) as of 5:50 p.m.

According to Public Relations Specialist Renee McCue, CL&P has not yet provided a restoration timetable, although there is a good flow of information. “They are still in the ‘make safe’ mode clearing debris from the streets. It might be 48 hours before we can have restoration estimates,” McCue said.

The “convenience center” at the Elmwood Community Center will open at 6 a.m. Wednesday to accommodate those who want to take a shower before work. It will remain open until 8 p.m.

Wednesday is Halloween, and many schoolchildren have been anxiously awaiting the status of trick-or-treating in West Hartford.

Mayor Scott Slifka had said Tuesday morning that he had hoped Halloween celebrations could take place, especially since the majority of the town, now approximately 86 percent, does have power and school will be in session on Wednesday.

However, he suggests that every neighborhood make a decision based on the condition of their area since it varies widely from block-to-block. "Trick-or-treating is not a town-sponsored activity. I trust our residents to make responsible decisions for their children."

If you’re in a neighborhood with storm debris, consider going earlier and consider going to a street nearby that does have power, he said. "We do ask that parents accompany their children and attempt to go out while there is still daylight."

Slifka's last message to his own 4-year-old daughter was, "Keep the hope alive, and let Daddy get more facts before he can make an informed decision." He has now determined that parents should feel free to proceed with trick-or-treating.

The Emergency Operations Center closed as of Tuesday evening. Although the forecasts had been dire, West Hartford was spared the brunt of the storm.

Phillips stressed that West Hartford is NOT planning a town-wide collection of debris. Folllowing clean up of their property, residents should take their waste to the recycling center. Branches can also be broken up and placed in trash barrels.

Only light branches that can easily fit should be placed in leaf bags.

Phillips does not expect West Hartford to qualify for FEMA grants for clean-up of this storm.

"The damage was in the same category, if not lighter, than with Irene," Phillips said.

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