Blumenthal said CL&P did not have crews available to make sure local public works crews could clear the roads quickly and safely.

"The town public works crews were ready to do the heavy lifting,'' he said. "What they needed was the expertise and involvement of the CL&P crews. The fact that CL&P had no plan ... until days after the snowfall speaks volumes about the lack of preparation. It should have lined up crews.''

Blumenthal and Murphy said regulators might look at requiring public utilities to forge binding mutual aid agreements with other companies to make sure crews arrive to restore power.

"It may be that lock-tight enforceable mutual aide agreements are the best deal for ratepayers,'' Murphy said. "We didn't have lock-tight enforceable mutual aide agreements in this case. We thought there were line crews coming that did not come. We absolutely have to have federal agencies looking into the question of how we can better write and enforce mutual aid agreements.''

"There are a lot of unanswered questions that federal as well as state authorities will have to address,'' added Blumenthal. "There needs to be an overall review of what can be done so that this kind of inadequate response never happens again. There's no excuse for it."

"CL&P is not just any old private business. It has a public trust," Blumenthal said. "It is an exclusive provider of electric power to more than half the state, and right now it is failing a lot of its customers and perhaps should be subject to sanctions even under existing law."

On Thursday night, the Connecticut National Guard was deployed to clear debris clogging hard-hit areas around the state, starting with the towns of Avon and Simsbury.

Malloy announced Thursday evening that, at his request, about 100 National Guard troops have been activated for the operation, which he said will move into still more communities Friday. In addition, CL&P said it is dedicating additional tree crews to help in the cleanup out of concern for possible safety issues.

Butler said the move came in response to acute safety concerns expressed by town officials earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, CL&P was reporting that 30 percent of its customers still remained without power Thursday night after the utility had returned power to 561,000 customers. Butler reiterated his pledge to have electricity to 99 percent of all CL&P customers by midnight Sunday.

Reporters asked Malloy if he had confidence in the utility's self-imposed deadline.

"Until those numbers have been proven wrong," Malloy said, "then I'm going to accept them."

Then he added, "I wouldn't want to be in their shoes if they failed to deliver."

As frustrated customers passed five full days without electricity, CL&P advised in-the-dark customers to beware of scams. The company had received reports of people who either called a customer or showed up at homes, claiming to work for CL&P and asking for $200 in cash to restore power. The utility said that CL&P workers carry identification to show that they are authorized to work on the outage, and they asked customers to immediately report any such requests for cash.

The pre-Halloween storm and its treacherous aftermath have led to eight deaths, including four from carbon monoxide poisoning, two motor vehicle accidents, one all-terrain-vehicle accident and one from a fire. Overall, 276 residents have been treated for carbon monoxide poisoning as they have tried to stay warm in their homes with the help of gasoline-powered generators or charcoal grills.

The Guard troops were called out in order to speed up the process of getting the lights on faster for thousands who initially lost power on Saturday afternoon.

"I, too, am frustrated, as is everyone,'' Malloy said.

When The Bill Comes Due

Earlier in the day, Butler said he expected the storm response to cost the company $75 million to $100 million, based on past events. He declined to say definitively whether the company would seek to pass those costs to ratepayers, saying that decision rests with state regulators.

"I believe the costs we incurred are the costs necessary to serve our customers,'' Butler said.