Gov. Lamont declares state of emergency after Ida pounds Connecticut; dozens of roads remain flooded, thousands without power and a state trooper swept away in flood waters is in critical condition

Date: 2021-09-02 02:59:02

The still-strong remnants of Hurricane Ida dumped more than a half foot of rain across much of Connecticut overnight, seriously injuring a state trooper, forcing water rescues, closing highways and leaving thousands without power Thursday.

Gov. Ned Lamont declared a state of emergency just after noon, joining New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in opening the states to federal aid to clean up the historic flooding seen across the entire region.

“The filing of this declaration will help provide state and local emergency management officials with the necessary tools to aid the impacted areas in safely recovering from this record-breaking rainfall that we received overnight,” Lamont said.

A veteran Connecticut state trooper was among those washed away by rising flood waters and was listed in critical condition at Yale New Haven Hospital on Thursday morning.

The trooper, a sergeant with Troop L in Litchfield, radioed that his cruiser was swept away by floodwater about 3:30 a.m. and his cruiser was first found empty, Trooper Pedro Muniz said. Searches by ground and air, using drones and helicopters, eventually found the sergeant and he was flown to Yale New Haven Hospital by Life Star helicopter.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the trooper,” Muniz said.

Conditions Thursday afternoon

Dozens of state roads across the state and even more local roads, especially along the shoreline, remained impassable midday Thursday because they were either still covered with flood waters or were blocked by downed trees and power lines.

More than 12,600 Eversource customers were left without power hours after the storm passed, mostly across Fairfield County where the storm hit hardest. Another 1,000 United Illuminating customers also were without power in the utility’s shoreline service area around Bridgeport and New Haven.

The storm prompted the National Weather Service to issue its first-ever flash flood emergency for Fairfield and New Haven counties on Wednesday and even set off several tornado warnings as the storm pounded the entire region overnight, causing historic flooding throughout New York City and the tri-state area.

Flash flood warnings remain in effect through mid-afternoon Thursday across parts of Hartford, Tolland and Windham counties, according to the weather service. Flood warnings also will remain in effect through Saturday evening for most of the state as rivers approach moderate flood stage, such as the Farmington River in central Connecticut, or already have reached, such as Housatonic River in Monroe, according to the service.

Rising rivers may even trigger evacuations of some homes and businesses especially close to those waterways, such as the lowest-lying areas in Avon and Simsbury, the weather service warned.

“At 15 feet, moderate flooding begins with numerous roads and residences affected,” forecasters said. “Evacuations may be needed along various roads in Avon and Simsbury, including Riverside Road in Simsbury. Flooding also begins to affect low lying sections of Bloomfield and East Granby.”

Most of the state saw about six inches of rain over the course of just a few hours overnight but some towns saw dramatically more, including 8.72 inches in Seymour and 8.58 inches in the Uncasville section of Montville, said Gary Lessor, chief meteorologist with Western Connecticut State University’s Connecticut Weather Center.

“Two months worth of rain in 16-20 hours,” Lessor said. “Copious downpours.”

The severe impacts of that much rain forced some towns and universities to cancel in-person classes Thursday, issue delayed starts or move in-person college lectures at UConn and Yale to online formats.

Rail service was suspended completely on Metro North and Shore Line East tracks across Connecticut and Connecticut Transit warned localized flooding was expected to cause disruptions in cities throughout the state.

Local impacts

Officials across the state warned drivers not to travel through flooded streets, even though the rain had stopped, because of the dangers of how deep and swift some of the water may be.

An alert that jolted cellphones shortly before 7:30 a.m. Thursday warned: “This is a dangerous and life-threatening situation. Do not attempt to travel unless you are fleeing an area subject to flooding or under an evacuation order.”

In Bristol, the Pequabuck River and Copper Mine Brook overflowed, forcing firefighters to evacuate a small condo complex on East Main Street and rescue motorists who got stuck on water-filled streets, Mayor Ellen Zoppo-Sassu said.

Twenty-eight condominium residents were taken to the Plainville Fire Department, she said. East Main Street, which is parallel to the Pequabuck, is near the Plainville line. She doesn’t know of any injuries.

“We had, at about 1:30 [a.m.], probably about a dozen roads blocked off. We are down to about three,” Zoppo-Sassu said shortly after 7:30 a.m. Still, she said anyone who needs to drive should be careful.

“They need to proceed with caution,” the mayor said. “The water is deeper than it looks.”

Crews in Manchester worked throughout Thursday morning to channel a swelling Bigelow Brook away from Charter Oak Park, but officials reported flood waters had receded and some roads that had flooded overnight were passable again.

Bristol recoded 5.91 inches of rain and Manchester had 5.36 inches, WCSU’s Lessor said.

Hartford’s most flood-prone areas suffered during the heavy rainfalls overnight but most of the water had receded by midday Thursday and roads were reopened they cleared, officials said.

“Could have been much worse,” Mayor Luke Bronin said early Thursday after reviewing the damage.

Dozens of state roads remained impassable around lunchtime across the state, including Route 7 in New Milford, Route 44 in East Hartford and multiple closures along flooded parts of Route 82 in East Haddam, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Travel

Metro North suspended its service shortly before 2:30 a.m. “due to extreme flooding conditions, downed trees, debris and power outages caused by severe weather across our entire territory,” the railroad said.

With serious flooding in New York City, Metro North earlier suspended service on the New Haven, Harlem and Hudson lines out of Grand Central Terminal late Wednesday, advising people to avoid travel if possible. Service on every subway line in New York City was also suspended as of 11:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Residents were advised to avoid driving all together.

“Although we have multiple flooding events in the past month, when it comes to driving and heavy rains, practice does not make perfect,” said Amy Parmenter, spokeswoman for AAA in Greater Hartford. “The safest plan is a plan to stay home and off the roads if at all possible. If you must travel, make sure you give yourself ample time, drive slowly and pull over to a safe location whenever visibility is limited.”

As far as air travel, all flight activity was suspended from Newark after major flooding at the airport.

Check back for updates.

Christine Dempsey can be reached at cdempsey@courant.com. Jessika Harkay can be reached at jharkay@courant.com. Zach Murdock can be reached at zmurdock@courant.com.


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