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October Snowstorm: While Farmington's Response Was Extraordinary, Town Continues to Train

Town Manager Kathy Eagen said that Farmington continues to improve its plans for major flooding and its relationship with CL&P.

Any Farmington resident touched by the October snowstorm of 2011 can tell you, it was one of those times you’re grateful to live in Farmington and proud of all the people who make it run.

That’s what dozens of residents said during and after the storm – in the shelter that housed and fed people for 10 days at Farmington High School, in the comments on Patch and at a reception for the volunteers and town employees that served the town during the aftermath of the October snowstorm, when nearly the entire town was left without power for more than a week.

The numbers, according to a report by Town Manager Kathy Eagen to the Town Council, show 2,267 people went to the shelter, firefighters served 234 hours at the high school on medical standby and distributed 300 carbon monoxide detectors and town officials worked in collaboration with each other as well as participated in daily conference calls with the governor and the president of Connecticut Light & Power.

“Town and Board of Education staff were ready and able to meet the challenges faced in such an extraordinary situation. All town services worked around the clock to meet the needs of our residents and manage the recovery,” Eagen wrote.

Indeed, many of the town’s firefighters worked dozens of hours at a time, stopping only to check on their families before returning to evacuate residents and answer the hundreds of calls that came in during the week the town had no power.

Public works crews also got to work immediately to clear the town’s roadways and remove debris and continued long after the power was restored.

Still, while the town’s response to the storm was excellent, Eagen said the event revealed a few areas to be addressed in preparation for the next big storm.

First, she said, it revealed the importance of generators in town buildings, especially those used for emergency and municipal services.

“We’re still working hard, looking at generators in town to upgrade, if needed and looking for grant funding,” Eagen said. “It became apparent that generators are key to keeping our buildings open.”

Second, town officials are working to develop a more thorough plan in cases of extreme flooding, Eagen said. The October snowstorm resulted in the second largest flooding event the town has experienced and rising water on Farmington Avenue and New Britain Avenue threatened access to the town’s emergency shelter and the emergency operations center.

“At the beginning of next month we’ll be working with the school system and running a large table top exercise on a wide-scale flooding event, one much much larger than we had,” she said.

A consultant from the state of Connecticut will work with Eagen, Superintendent Kathleen Greider and their staff to run the exercise.

One thing they’ll look at is what would happen if the town had to relocate the emergency shelter from the high school.

“The plans don’t go into enough details if we had to do a large scale evacuation in town,” Eagen said. 

And while response from CL&P during the storm aftermath was disappointing, Eagen said there have been numerous internal changes and officials from the company have met with the town several times over the past year. The new Senior Vice President of Emergency Preparedness is also scheduled to speak at the Farmington Economic Development breakfast Oct. 24. 

"We've learned a lot and want to continue to learn from some of the things that happened," Eagen concluded. "We're going to do some training and continue to look for funding for grants for generators and we still have open dialogues with CL&P and all our utility companies - I think that's important."

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