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Backside of Irene Could Pack a Wallop

The governor warns that high winds could still come across the state as Irene leaves.

Most of the rain associated with Hurricane Irene is over but the storm is still expected to pack a solid punch to the state in terms of wind in the next few hours, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said minutes ago during an update on the storm with reporters.

Malloy said the number of people without power in Connecticut has climbed to 700,000 and the figure could reach higher because forecasters expect Irene to bring “extremely high winds” on the backside of the storm.

“So please, if you don’t have to be out don’t be,” Malloy said.

He said there have been two rescue operations resulting from the storm, in Milford and West Haven.

The Connecticut River, along with the Housatonic and Farmington rivers, are all at flood stage following more than eight inches of rain that fell across the state.

Of Connecticut’s 169 towns, 35 have declared states of emergency, Malloy said. In Bridgeport, power to the entire city might have to be cut while workers make repairs to a power substation that went under water.

There are five hospitals in Connecticut and 20 nursing homes that are without power but which are operating on emergency generators, Malloy said, along with the Veteran’s Home in Rocky Hill.

He also confirmed that one person was killed in Prospect this morning in a fire that was caused by downed wires. Two firefighters in that town were also injured responding to the blaze when they received electrical shocks. Both were hospitalized. One of the firefighters has already been released. The second is still being treated and will likely be released later today, Malloy said.

A tractor-trailer truck ban that was ordered this morning was lifted shortly before 11 a.m., he added. The Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways were reopened to traffic before noon, but Malloy again cautioned residents to stay off all of those highways because of the risk of falling trees and tree limbs.

“If you’re foolish enough to go on there don’t blame me for the delays,” he said.

AT&T is reporting that about 2,000 of its poles have been damaged, along with some of its cell towers. Malloy urged residents not to use their AT&T cell phones if they don’t need to and to text if they do because texting requires less power.

CL&P, he said, is bringing in extra crews to help with the cleanup and the military in Connecticut has been deployed as well to assist in that effort.

However, with the path of destruction Irene has wrought along the eastern seaboard, utility companies will be hard pressed in the next several days to get the power restored. One CL&P official today said some remote areas of the state could be without power for up to a week.

Malloy said he will be touring shoreline towns later today to get a better sense of the damage. He will give another update on the hurricane at 6 p.m.

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