The state's Two Storm Panel approved no less than 82 recommendations Monday morning to address the state's response to two extreme weather events last summer and fall — Tropical Storm Irene and the October Nor'Easter.
The summary of the 39-page report issued by the panel called the storms a "wake-up call to Connecticut" and said "the state must do more to prevent, plan for, and respond to emergencies and natural disasters."
Joe McGee, vice president of the business council of Fairfield County and a co-chair of the Two Storm Panel, said after approval of the recommendations that the "great public debate" will now center around the issue of "hardening" — or strengthening — power lines as climate change creates a rising sea level and more powerful storms.
The tradeoff, McGee said, would be about a 10 percent increase in monthly utilities bills to gain a 30 to 40 percent increase in the durability of the system.
Among others, the panel's recommendations include:
- The need to develop reasonable performance standards for utility recovery and restorations after storms and link recoverable costs to these standards.
- Revisions to state engineering standards to accommodate predicted increases in storm surge along coastal areas.
- The need for improved worst-case planning and staffing by the state's utilities.
- Connecticut's infrastructure needs to be better hardened to withstand natural disasters, and such work should begin as quickly as possible.
- The use of microgrids and other emerging technologies should be considered as potential methods for mitigation of impacts to infrastructure.
- Increased collaboration between municipalities, state resources, electric utilities and telcommunications service providers with respect to tree trimming.
- Increased communication and planning between municipalities and utilities before a storm or diaster is imminent.
- A review of sheltering needs to ensure that at-risk populations can be served if sheltering is required for a significant length of time.
After the recommendations were approved, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said his administration would address them later this week with specific responses to how the state would improve its performance in such emergencies. Some of those responses will be introduced as legislation in the session that begins in February, he said.
Malloy thanked panel members and those who gave testimony, and commented on the mission of the panel.
"We did many things right in the wake of these two storms, but when the margin of error is zero — like it was for these two storms — we have to do better," he said.
Malloy created the Two Storm Panel to "review the preparedness, response and recovery efforts" after Tropical Storm Irene in August and the Nor'easter in October. Both storms left hundreds of thousands of state residents without power — in the case of the October storm for up to 12 days.
Members of the Two Storm Panel had experience in the military, municipal government, the non-profit and labor sectors, and disaster relief. They held nine meetings over several months and took testimony from about 100 witnesses.
Witt Associates, which was tasked by the state with examining Connecticut Light & Power's performance following the devastating October snowstorm, released a report in December that outlined where the utility fell short in its mission to restore power to more than 800,000 customers.
The final report of the Two Storm panel is attached to this article as a pdf.