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Fuchs Talks Hurricane Sandy and Redding

Redding's Police Chief provides a full description of the state of Redding during a week in which many residents lived without electricity.

Redding was one of the hardest hit towns in Connecticut by Hurricane Sandy, which disrupted the lives of everyone for a week or more.

Police Chief Douglas Fuchs said—understandably—many of Redding’s residents were aggravated, having to live for up to seven or eight days without power. That duration increased after an .

Fuchs said the town and its officials are not responsible for the order in which power is restored to the town.

“This one misconception is municipal officials somehow have the ability to direct the utility companies in restoration,” Fuchs said. “They have to figure how to best get their customers back online.”

Fuchs, who doubles as a member of Redding’s emergency management team, recently shed light on just exactly what was going on in town during the storm and its aftermath.

Before the storm hit, the town started making emergency management preparations such as making sure that generators were properly functioning and the police department was properly staged. The town brought in a backup generator and lighting tower that was positioned in town as a failsafe for the police department’s generator, which needs to be replaced but hadn’t yet been replaced.

“We talked about timelines,” he said. “From there, it was a waiting game.”

Fuchs said when the storm hit Monday, the winds ramped up and for a little while it appeared Redding might emerge from the storm relatively unscathed.

“In the early evening, we started to get walloped and by mid-evening, it was no longer safer for us to respond” to anything but true life or death emergencies, Fuchs said. “We had to pull all our officers off the road. One was trapped in Georgetown. The rest were about to get back here.” The officer who couldn’t get out of Georgetown, Fuchs said, took refuge at the Georgetown Volunteer Fire Department.

“By mid-to-late evening, our ability to drive around town had been completely degraded,” Fuchs said. “Our ability to respond, as well as the fire department’s, was virtually nil. Once the bulk of the storm passed by about 4 o’clock in the morning, we were really able to begin damage assessment.”

Fuchs said the highway department and a CL&P crew were prepositioned in town and began working to reopen roads at that time.

“We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 70, 75 roads that were completely blocked,” he said. “Some of those were easy hits. Some of them to eight hours to clean.”

Fuchs said the day following Sandy, there was one powerline crew, the entire highway department and one state DOT crew in town.

“We had to clear the state roads first,” he said, adding they then had to get the West Redding Fire Department back online. “I’ve never seen that kind of damage before.”

Fuchs said the town couldn’t do anything without a powerline crew if there were wires down.

“Eventually, we did get another powerline crew,” he said.

“The only restoration work that began immediately was this facility,” Fuchs said of the police department. “We lost power. They did scramble a crew out here for them to get us online. It did take a couple of days, but they got us back online.”

Fuchs said town hall never lost power, nor did people on that circuit.

“During the last storm, that circuit was decimated,” he said. “They did a really good job at replacing polls, transformers and cutting away trees.”

Fuchs said the town independently located an out-of-state certified powerline crew, bringing the number of crews up to three.

“It was very obvious that there was not a circuit left standing in town” besides town hall, Fuchs said.

CL&P crews showed town officials the damage, Fuchs said.

“They showed us the damage, but when it comes to restoration, municipal officials do not have any weigh-in,” he said. “Generally speaking, they first start with the backbone of the system.”

On Thursday of that week, men from two out-of-state crews came in, one from Quebec, the other from Western Massachusetts. At the peak there were about 30 crews in town.

“To ensure that we got the most effective use out of these guys, we offered to feed them,” Fuchs said. “That kept them working as many hours as physically possible.”

When the accident last Monday occurred, the crews from Quebec was still in town and worked to restore power quickly that day.

“That took all day,” Fuchs said.

Virtually all of Redding was eventually restored by Wednesday of last week, nine days after the storm hit. Despite that, Fuchs said the crews in town were “phenomenal,” as they did “exactly what they said they were going to do.”

Fuchs also offered praise for the emergency team.

“We all put ourselves in harm’s ways to save other people,” he said.

Susanne Krivit November 12, 2012 at 02:36 PM
I want to thank Chief Fuchs and also Natalie Ketcham and other town employees for their hard and sometimes dangerous work during the days following the storm. Communication was also much improved since last year and I appreciated the updates. I think what we need to do going forward is work to improve some of the other important circuits in town and do the same sorts of upgrades (replacing polls, transformers, and cutting away trees) that was done around town hall.

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