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Storm leaves thousands without power

Updated 11:34 pm, Thursday, January 31, 2013

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  • A heavy winter storm early Thursday, Jan 31 left thousands of residents without power as this outage mage from CL&P shows. Darker areas of the map indicate more outages.

    A heavy winter storm early Thursday, Jan 31 left thousands of residents without power as this outage mage from CL&P shows. Darker areas of the map indicate more outages.

 

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Staff reports

Fairfield Ludlowe High School will be closed for a second day Friday because of "significant" wind damage to a portion of the school's roof after Thursday's powerful winter storm.

The storm lashed Connecticut with strong winds and heavy rain, leaving thousands of people without power and knocking down dozens of trees on the Merritt Parkway and numerous streets across the region.

The strong winds -- gusting to more than 60 mph -- also caused problems for drivers navigating through the pelting rain.

Police reported several roads closed across southwestern Connecticut because of downed trees, utility poles and hanging live wires.

At one point, both United Illuminating and Connecticut Light & Power had a combined 75,000 customers without power. By Thursday afternoon, most of the UI customers had their power restored.

In a letter to Fairfield Ludlowe parents Thursday, Headmaster Greg Hatzis said winds during the overnight storm blew off a section of the rubber membrane on the roof above a main hallway in Warner House, allowing rain to enter the building and damage at least 10 of the 15 classrooms in that wing of the Unquowa Road building.

Hatzis said that over the course of Thursday morning, "the situation worsened quickly." By then, however, students were already on their way to the high school.

"We directed all students who had classes on the entire second floor to the gymnasium," he said, while a damage assessment was conducted.

At no time were any students or staff in the part of the building that was damaged, Hatzis said.

After officials determined they could not relocate all of the students in the 15 classrooms, school was dismissed early at 10:15 a.m.

On its Twitter account, UI noted it began seeing storm impact around 4 a.m.

"The damage is primarily and almost exclusively tree related. All UI crews are working. Wind conditions are now safe for workers" it tweeted shortly before 8 a.m. Thursday.

On Minerva Street in Derby, the strong winds peeled tar paper off the roof of a 30-unit apartment building, allowing water to enter, Chief Tom Lenhart Jr. said.

"Some roof shingles blew off and the tar paper underneath picked up in places. Some vent pipes also blew over and the gutters were clogged. All of this caused water to enter the third floor, but no one was evacuated,'' he said.

The strongest wind gust recorded at Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford was 61 mph. At Oxford airport, the wind was clocked at 49 mph and 45 mph at Danbury airport. Meteorologist Gil Simmons of WTNH said a record wind gust of 78 mph was reported in Westbrook along the Connecticut coastline.

Power outages forced all public schools to be closed in Stratford and Newtown.

Electrical problems and other issues kept Harborside Middle School in Milford from opening, as well as High Road School in Norwalk, Greens Farms Academy in Westport and Lauralton Hall in Milford. Schools in Bethel, Darien, Easton, Westport, Weston and Redding delayed their opening by 90 minutes to two hours.

Metro-North reported New Haven Line delays up to 20 minutes due to weather-related conditions. Riders traveling eastbound to Noroton Heights, Darien, Rowayton, East Norwalk, Westport and Greens Farms had to take a train to Southport then get a westbound train to get access to these stations due to "wire issues" in the area.

The early morning temperature of 58 in Bridgeport broke a record set a year ago -- by 1 degree. But that was a short-lived mark as readings fell throughout the day. The 0.54 inches of rain was not a record; 0.60 of an inch fell on this day in 1949, according to Weather Underground.

By 9 a.m. Thursday, mostly clear, blue skies had returned to southwestern Connecticut. On Friday and through the weekend, there is a chance of snow, forecasters said.

The vast storm shattered homes and businesses around the Midwest and South with tornadoes and high winds earlier in the week.

By Thursday, it had spread power outages from the Carolinas to Connecticut, triggered flash floods and forced water rescues in areas outside Washington, D.C.

Staff writers Frank Juliano, John Nickerson, Libor Jany, Genevieve Reilly and James Shay contributed to this story.