Henry causes power outages in Danbury as area braces for tropical storm impact

Henry, which was a hurricane on Saturday afternoon, was downgraded to a tropical storm early Sunday morning, but forecasters still expect heavy rains and damaging winds to hit the greater Danbury area. A tropical storm warning was in effect Sunday.

The National Weather Service expected winds to be maintained between 10 and 15 mph during the storm’s peak, with gusts of up to 50 mph near Danbury. The wind should be strong enough to knock down large tree branches and break or uproot trees, according to the NWS.

With strong winds, power outages worry.

As of 10 a.m. Danbury had around 800 Eversource customers without power in the Casper Street area, according to emergency services director Matthew Cassavechia. The origin of the outage is currently unknown, but early reports suggest it was caused by felled tree branches. Eversource is on the scene and is now awaiting a 4 p.m. restoration, Cassavechia reported.

The city leads the zone when it comes to blackouts.

While Gov. Ned Lamont said on Saturday that utility companies had told him they were ready, Eversource estimated that up to 50 to 69% of its customers could lose power for 8 to 21 days. This prediction came before the last forecast which shifted the storm slightly to the east.

Cassavechia said the city is working closely and in frequent contact with their Eversource liaison as the storm approaches.

New Milford expects “bands of heavy rain” throughout the day and evening, with 4 to 6 inches expected, Mayor Pete Bass said in a Sunday afternoon Facebook update.

“It could cause flooding in low areas, especially from our waterways,” he wrote. “These rain bands can also carry gusts of wind that could knock over trees and wires.”

The city’s shelter and flood protocols are in place if needed, Bass said. He plans to update the city again at 5 p.m.

Flooding could be a problem across the region if the storm stays east of the region. A flood watch was in effect early Sunday morning, with 3-6 inches of rain possible. The rain was expected to start on Sunday morning with an increase in wind speed throughout the morning and the worst of the storm arriving on Sunday afternoon.

“We expect heavy rains which could lead to dangerous flash floods in the afternoon and late evening tomorrow,” Mayor Joe Cavo said in a statement to residents of Danbury on Saturday evening. “Walking or driving in flood waters is extremely dangerous. It only takes one foot of moving water to sweep a vehicle. If you are driving tomorrow and see a flood sign, for your safety please turn around and take an alternate route.

Danbury is also preparing Danbury High School and the War Memorial to serve as evacuation shelters. Cavo was briefed on emergency shelter preparations by Cassavechia in the high school gymnasium on Sunday morning.

Three gymnasiums are currently being prepared at the school, with a capacity of 175 people. The war memorial is slated for 25 people starting at 9 a.m., but Cassavechia said the memorial has the capacity to scale that up to an additional 100 people if needed, and that more school gym space can also be activated.

“Like this storm, it’s a dynamic situation,” Cassavechia said.

Right now, he said they were just doing the “finishing touches” at the shelter and bringing in pallets of water donated by Home Depot.

Emergency management teams also kept the COVID-19 social distancing protocol in mind during their preparations.

“Right from the start, it’s about balancing public safety and public health,” Cassavechia explained.

The shelters have cots, water and food for evacuees. In the event of an evacuation, residents must also bring any important personal items such as medicines.

The storm is expected to move slowly once it hits dry land, with the effects continuing to be felt on Sunday evening. Tropical storm conditions remain possible on Monday, according to the NWS.

South of the Danbury area, along the shoreline, storm surge monitoring has been put in place, meaning “there is a possibility of potentially fatal flooding, due to rising waters moving to inland from the coast, ”said the National Weather Service.

City officials, department heads and medical services will continue to meet regularly as the storm hits the region, Cassavechia said.

Keep checking here for updates.

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