HARTFORD—Some people dream of a white Christmas. Others think it's cool for Thanksgiving. But before Halloween?
An October nor'easter brought heavy, wet snow across the state Saturday, causing widespread traffic problems and knocking down tree limbs and power lines that cut electricity to more than 525,000 customers statewide. At least one death was attributed to the storm in a traffic accident on Route 85 in Colchester.
It was also the second worst storm in state history in terms of power outages – second only to Tropical Storm Irene that barreled through the state only two months ago. The outages even surpassed those from Hurricane Gloria in 1985, one of the worst storms in state history.
The conditions Saturday got so bad that Gov. Dannel P. Malloy banned non-emergency vehicles from the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways for fear that tree limbs would strike passing cars.
"I am urging residents to stay off the roads and let DOT crews get out there and get the streets clear,'' Malloy said. "On the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways, no one should be on the roads except emergency crews. People should stay inside at this point. We are seeing heavy snow start to impact power as well as driving."
When asked for his advice during a 6:30 p.m. news conference that was televised live, Malloy said, "Stay home.'' He added, "Have a Halloween party in your own house.''
Both Malloy and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared states of emergency, which gives them additional powers to combat the huge storm that touched multiple states.
Numerous crashes and bumper-to-bumper traffic forced police to shut down Route 44 by mid-afternoon on both sides of Avon Mountain in West Hartford and Avon. The Avon closure sent traffic pouring over to Route 185 in Simsbury, which was bumper-to-bumper from Folly Farm at the base of the mountain all the way to the Bloomfield line at the top of the mountain. At least three cars were stuck by the side of the road as others waited in line with their lights on. As the cars were lined up, a state DOT truck was on the other side of the mountain, near Wade's Farm in Bloomfield, preparing to clear the road.
In the hard-hit Farmington Valley, 100 percent of CL&P customers in Simsbury and Avon were without power Saturday night. In Farmington and Granby, more than 80 percent of customers were without power. At least 75 percent of the customers in Glastonbury, and Wethersfield had lost electricity.
The power outages differed sharply across the state as more than 90 percent of the CL&P customers were without power in Plainville, Suffield, Marlborough, Kent, Cornwall, and Goshen. All customers lost power in Redding, Ashford, Bolton, and Union. At the other end of the state, in North Stonington, there was virtually no snow on the ground by 7 p.m. as portions of southeastern Connecticut went relatively unscathed.
In pockets around the state, the roads were packed in the mid-afternoon as motorists either ignored the storm or got caught by surprise and were unable to get home as quickly as they thought they could. In Fairfield County, the storm hit a few hours earlier than had been expected.