When the wind died and the rain stopped and you became acclimated to the smell of shredded vegetation, life in eastern Connecticut after Tropical Storm Irene looked as if it could be borne.
If you had a pond into which you could plunge each dawn with a bar of soap. And water to lug into the house to flush toilets. And you could find a gas station that could pump gas, so you could drive around looking for ice that you could use to refrigerate food, if you could find an open grocery store at which to replace what was rotting in the refrigerator.
Bearable. For a couple of days.
The storm was no surprise. It wobbled up the East Coast, weakening, as the forecasters said it would, from hurricane to tropical storm as it rolled over the state on Sunday, Aug. 28.
It arrived at high tide, causing substantial damage at low shore points. Beach homes in
were knocked off their pilings and pounded to pieces. More were damaged in Milford.
The rain, as much as 10 inches in places, reached into northern New England and rivers ran in torrents and overflowed their banks. It ruined the year for farmers along the
where fields of tomatoes, beans and tobacco suffocated beneath 6 feet of water.
Wind speeds of 70 mph knocked down oaks and maples. Property owners from Lyme to Glastonbury were still sawing at Thanksgiving. There were two deaths, one caused when a fallen electric line ignited a house in
and the other when a canoe overturned in the swollen Pequabuck River in
What was surprising was the vehemence of the reaction when customers of Connecticut Light & Power in the southeast half of the state began to consider, after four or five days in the dark, what they were getting for some of the country's highest electric rates. It wasn't prompt restoration of power.
About 767,000 electric customers, of both CL&P and United Illuminating, lost power, establishing a new — if ultimately short-lived — record for power failures. That was 138,000 more than the old record, set during Hurricane Gloria in 1985.
Two days after the storm, CL&P had reduced the number of its 660,000 customer outages to 300,000 or so. But by then, evidence was accumulating that utilities elsewhere, in states with more extensive storm damage, were restoring power more quickly.
Nine days after Irene hit, CL&P was still working to restore power in eastern Connecticut.