Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Friday (Nov. 4) that Witt Associates, a consulting firm led by former FEMA Director under President Bill Clinton, James Lee Witt, will conduct an independent review of both CL&P and UI and their response to the October Storm Alfred.
James Lee Witt is the Chief Operating Officer of Witt Associates, a consulting firm that focuses on public safety and crisis management from mitigation to preparedness, response and recovery.
What’s been called Winter Storm Alfred – though it arrived during the time of the year when most people are displaying pumpkins and Halloween decorations, and haven’t begun to think about Thanksgiving dinner, yet – dumped as much as 20 inches of snow on some parts of the state and knocked out power to upwards of 830,000 residents at its peak.
As of Friday, according to an update given by CL&P President Jeff Butler, power has now been restored to 585,000 customers, with approximately 283,000 customers coping with their sixth night without heat or lights.
Butler, speaking at the evening press conference held at the state Emergency Operations Center, said that between 8 a.m. Friday and 8 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, he expects another 100,000 customers to have their power restored.
Butler said CL&P continues to bring in more crews from out-of-state. As of Friday, he said, there were 1,802 line and tree crews at work – this in addition to members of the CT National Guard who are helping clear roads of debris, CT Department of Public Works employees, and towns’ own public works employees.
On Saturday, more than 300 additional crews will be in towns working on trees limbs, clearing roads and reconnecting service, Butler said.
In total, he said, there are approximately 6,000 CL&P employees working on restoring power.
Butler also reaffirmed his promise that 99 percent of customers in all 149 of Connecticut’s towns will have power restored by midnight this Sunday, Nov. 6.
Butler also fielded questions from reporters who challenged his claim that communications between the utility company and towns have been more timely and have been providing accurate information, which he has said is a lesson learned from this August’s Tropical Storm Irene.
One reporter stated that a CL&P employee told him that a CL&P crew that was supposed to work on a specific area in cooperation with Tolland Public Works employees didn’t show up.
Butler said 218 crews were in the Tolland area Friday, and that he was unaware of this snafu, but would investigate.
He also was asked if CL&P has refused help from crews with nonunion workers. Butler replied, “That is absolutely not true.”
Butler also has been repeatedly questioned about CL&P’s reported failure to pay some contractors who were hired to help with recovery after Tropical Storm Irene, which lead to inadequate numbers of crews available to deal with the immediate aftermath of Storm Alfred, which pounded the Northeast on Oct. 29.
Butler responded that invoices need to be reviewed according to a standard procedure and that to his knowledge, all invoices have been paid.
These and many other claims will be examined by Witt Associates, and Gov. Malloy said Friday he expects to have the firm’s report in hand by Dec. 1, 2011 – and at no cost to the state. The company is providing this service pro bono, Gov. Malloy said.
The governor responded to many reporters questions by saying, “As soon as everyone’s lights are back on, we need to have a very timely, thorough review of the power companies’ performances, to identify what went wrong, why it went wrong, and most importantly, identify solutions for the short-term before the next winter storm impacts Connecticut.”
“Witt Associates has a body of experience that is second to none. James and his colleagues have worked on the state and federal level and they understand how critical it is to conduct this review quickly and thoroughly. I appreciate his offer to help us,” Gov. Malloy said.
According to a press release issued Friday by the governor’s office, James Lee Witt has more than 25 years of disaster management experience, culminating in his appointment as the Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where he served from 1993-2001.
As FEMA Director, Witt coordinated federal disaster relief on behalf of President Clinton, including the response and recovery activities of 28 federal agencies and departments, the American Red Cross, and other voluntary agencies.
He also oversaw the National Flood Insurance Program, the U.S. Fire Administration, and other pro-active mitigation activities that reduce loss of life and property from all types of hazards, the release states.
Prior to his service at FEMA, Witt led the Arkansas Office of Emergency Services, a position he held for four years, the release states.
Posted Nov. 4, 2011
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