‘It’s really affecting our life:’ Westport community struggles with Eversource’s response
WESTPORT — When Joe Canicatti arrived at his business on Friday he was hopeful power had finally been restored after being knocked out by Tropical Storm Isaias.
But Canicatti, owner of Joe’s Pizza, soon found that for the second-day straight he would be unable to open his business.
“It’s really hard besides having the COVID situation going on — we were closed and then opened with a certain capacity. That was already hard. But we got used to that,” Canicatti said. “Now this is something else on top of that.”
When the storm struck Tuesday afternoon all of the power was knocked out. The day marked when his business typically stocked their refrigerator for the week. But on Thursday, Canicatti said he and his staff were forced to throw out a lot of food that had since spoiled.
“It was almost $5,000 worth of inventory,” he said. “It smelled so bad in there. But we cleaned, we disinfected and we got the place ready to go. It’s almost like we’re reopening again.”
But without power he couldn’t prepare food to begin the reopening process — or provide takeout and delivery.
Canicatti joins many other business owners and residents facing the challenge of knowing when power may return.
Eversource reported 10,362 customers without power in town as of 6:15 p.m. Friday. According to the company website, this represented 82.02 percent of the 12,633 Eversource customers in town.
Canicatti, who has owned the business since 2006, said he’s never experienced a power outage like this after previous storms.
“We would lose power from time to time, but never for this long,” he said. “Not enough for there to be food spoilage. ... Between the business loss and the inventory we’re talking almost $20,000 worth of loss.”
He said he was also concerned for his employees, who would be unable to work for the time being. Canicatti also expressed disappointment in Eversource’s response.
“I feel like they’re just dragging their foot on this,” he said. “They should have been better prepared. How does Eversource after (Superstorm) Sandy not prepare for this? I just don’t understand how.”
Canicatti’s sentiments were echoed by Gov. Ned Lamont and several elected officials who held a news conference at Town Hall on Friday. The officials later surveyed some of the damage wrought by Isaias in town.
“One of the things we did in dealing with COVID is hope for the best but plan for the worst,” Lamont said. “That’s not what our utilities have done. That’s not what Eversource has done.”
Lamont was joined by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, First Selectman Jim Marpe, state Rep. Jonathan Steinberg, state Rep. Gail Lavielle, state Sen. Tony Hwang, Selectwoman Melissa Kane and others at the news conference.
He said the state was doing everything it could to ensure Eversource restored power quickly.
“I’m going to hold their feet to the fire every day until this is done,” Lamont said.
Marpe also expressed disappointment with Eversource’s response. He said the town has faced communication problems with the company in trying to receive updates on restoration efforts.
“I have no notion of what they are providing us,” he said. “I can’t tell if you there’s 10 trucks here in town, two trucks, or 200. On top of that I have no estimated time on power restoration.”
Lamont said as he’s traveled across the state talking to communities, he’s seen this is more than just a utility that provides electricity, and warranted a more pressing response.
“This is life giving,” Lamont said. “We need not a utility response, we need an emergency response.”
But for residents and business owners like Canicatti, a response is needed sooner than later.
“It’s really affecting our life. It’s affecting our livelihood for us and my employees,” Canicatti said. “I just don’t understand why it’s taking so long for Eversource ... nobody can give you a response.”