Connecticut slowly recovering from storm

Two people are dead and more than 624,000 customers without power this morning after  Sandy pounded Connecticut with strong winds and huge waves that battered the shoreline.

Thousands of people remain in shelters, anxious to return to their homes to assess damage.

In Easton, a volunteer firefighter was killed Monday night when a tree fell on a firetruck on Judd Road during the height of strong winds.. His name has not yet been released.

The U.S. Coast Guard will also be searching the waters off Milford today after witnesses said a man was seen swimming off of Walnut Beach last night.

WTNH reports that a 90-year-old woman was killed after a tree fell on a family car. Around 6:30 p.m. State Police were notified that a tree had fallen and struck a family on West Highland Road in Mansfield. Police say three people had lost power at their home and were trying to go to a neighbor’s home that still had power when the tree fell on them. Police said the tree had a power line intertwined around it and Olga Raymond, 90, died.

In Greenwich, authorities said four multi-million dollar homes along Binney Lane in the Old Greenwich went up in flames Monday night. Officials at the Emergency Operations Center told News 8 the weather played a factor with 80 mph winds fanning the flames.

This morning, Gov. Dannel Malloy lifted the travel ban on state highways.

On Monday, facing severe weather from Hurricane Sandy, Governor Malloy had ordered a truck ban, followed by the closure of the state’s limited access highways to non-emergency vehicles. “Use your heads when it comes to driving. If a road appears impassable because of water, downed wires, fallen trees or other debris, do not attempt to drive through it,” Malloy said.

It remains uncertain when service will resume on Metro-North. What will be done first is a damage assessment from fallen trees on the tracks, washouts and possible damage to electrical components. Marjorie Anders, Metro-North spokeswoman, said the main New Haven Line will be a priority.

At a news conference Monday night, Malloy told residents that if their homes are surrounded by water they need to stay put and move to a higher spot in the home.

“Let’s be very clear; if your house is surrounded by water your best and safest option at this time is to remain in that house and move to a higher level of the house,” Gov. Malloy said. “That’s what we’re telling people, including if you’re in a one-level house, potentially moving to the roof of the house. This is a rather Katrina-like warning that we are issuing to people that did not take the advise that was given to them earlier in this crisis.”

United Illuminating is reporting 148,854 customers without power, nearly half of its service area. About 50,000 of those customers were affected by the shut down of two substations along Bridgeport Harbor. UI officials de-energized the substations to protect equipment from floodwaters caused by high tide. They hope to restart the substations later today. Fairifield had 97 percent of its customers without power.

CL&P has 475,406 without power or about 38 percent of its customers.

While the effects of Sandy are diminishing in Connecticut, the state still has another cycle of high tide to face. A moderate high tide, about 10 feet above normal,  is expected today from New Haven to Greenwich starting around noon.

Fairfield will not allow people to return to their homes until after high tide.

In Westport, the National Guard is assisting the town with water rescue vehicles and six soldiers. The state is also helping Westport with a task force of 16 firefighters and five vehicles.

The Guard has also been deployed to Bridgeport according to Mayor Bill Finch.

Showers are still likely, mainly after noon. It will remain mostly cloudy, with a high near 62. It will also be breezy, with a south wind 16 to 23 mph, with gusts as high as 40 mph. By Friday, sunny skies are expected to return – the first time in days.

In New York City, subway service remains suspended with many tunnels flooded. “Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on our entire transportation system, in every borough and county of the region,” MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota said in a statement early Tuesday. “It has brought down trees, ripped out power and inundated tunnels, rail yards and bus depots.”

Jim Shay