Calling Hurricane Sandy “the largest threat to human life that our state has experienced in anyone’s lifetime,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said late Sunday that he has asked President Barack Obama for a declaration of disaster before the storm hits Connecticut.
In his mostly strongly worded warning to date on the storm, Malloy Sunday evening again urged all coastal residents to heed local evacuation warnings and orders and get out of their homes to higher ground before it’s too late.
“This is a real warning of possible death of drowning,” Malloy said during a storm update at the State Armory. “I know it’s hard to leave your home. But I can’t be any clearer. Anyone on the waterfront must take this seriously.” He said the biggest threat would come tomorrow night during one of four high tide cycles Long Island Sound will experience during the 36-hour time frame of the storm.
“We can’t get people out tomorrow night," he said. "That’s an impossibility.”
Malloy also had blunt advice to any thrill seekers who go out into the storm: “Don’t be stupid.” Last year two people were killed when they went out during Tropical Storm Irene.
An early declaration of disaster by the federal government, Malloy said, would get federal money flowing faster once restoration efforts are underway.
The latest forecasts call for sustained high winds that will force more water into Long Island Sound than the sound can handle. That will create a storm surge now estimated between seven and 10 feet, Malloy said.
“That would lead to unprecedented flooding. The last time we saw anything like this was never.”
By comparison, he said, Tropical Storm Irene last year saw a four-feet storm surge in the sound, which was enough to destroy some homes along the coastline.
That surge, in turn, will force water up tidal rivers in the state, including the Connecticut River. The surge in that river, Malloy said, could reach Middletown and beyond.
Malloy urged those who live near tidal rivers and streams to also be aware of water levels and to get out if they feel the water level is becoming a danger.
He said he is worried that too many residents still don’t comprehend the power and danger Hurricane Sandy because they are used to intense storms of short duration, like Irene.
Sandy will last for up to 36 hours, with some forecasters saying the storm could essentially stall out once it makes landfall. Hurricanes, nor’easters and other storms in southern New England have typically lasted for 12 hours or less, Malloy said.
“This is a very difficult concept for people to wrap their heads around,” he said.
The governor has ordered all nonessential state employees to stay home tomorrow and the state’s Judicial Department has also decided to close all offices and courthouses on Monday.
Malloy also issued an executive order to extend the deadline for voter registration from Tuesday, Oct. 29 to Thursday, Nov.1.
Utility officials said they are continuing efforts to bring as many crews into the state as possible ahead of Sandy. William Quinlan, vice president of emergency planning for CL&P, said there are currently 1,060 linemen in the state that are being dispatched tonight out to the towns. That’s three and a half times as many linemen than the utility had during Hurricane Irene restoration efforts, he said. In addition, the utility has 550 tree workers.
Still, widespread and prolonged outages are expected from the storm, officials said. Quinlan said CL&P is particularly concerned about two underground substations, one each in Norwalk and Stamford, that could go underwater if flooding occurs.
United Illuminating vice president John Prete said his company has 290 linemen at the ready and 200 tree workers and has hired another 600 linemen and tree workers have been hired from outside the company to help with restoration efforts.
As reporters pressed both utility officials for information on how long they think the restoration effort will take, Prete issued the heartfelt request: “Say a prayer that no resident of Connecticut has serious harm and that workers who have to get out in the storm get back safe to their families.”