A surge of Connecticut Light and Power crews helped turn many lights back on in Durham and Middlefield Wednesday.
At a 6 p.m. briefing at the emergency shelter at Coginchaug High School, Durham first selectman Laura Francis announced that power had been restored to more than half of the CL&P customers in town in just 24 hours.
"The good news is there are fewer of you today than there were yesterday and I can tell you why. Yesterday when we started this briefing at six o'clock we were around 100 percent without power. Right now, in Durham, we're around 49 percent," she said.
Francis said the power company had sent 14 crews to work in the two towns Wednesday in an effort to restore power to more than 5200 customers, most of whom haven't had electricity since Saturday's historic October nor'easter.
"Some of you have been here so long we're going to owe you a diploma," joked Middlefield first selectman Jon Brayshaw, who got a laugh from the shelter crowd.
Brayshaw said as of 3 p.m., CL&P had restored power to 24 percent of the town.
"When I left here today at noon time I drove by Peckham Park, there were kids playing at Peckham Park. Good news," he said.
Brayshaw told the audience at the shelter that power crews had made progress by restoring power to "part of Jackson Hill Road, part of Main Street, all of Strickland Road, part of Cherry Hill Road, Hubbard Street, Memorial School, Cedar Street and Sugarland Terrace," the town's elderly housing complex.
Brayshaw said crews also focused on Route 147 in an effort to restore power at John Lyman Elementary School.
All schools in District 13 will remain closed Thursday, the fourth day in a row students have been forced to stay home.
"I am very optimistic for Friday," superintendent Susan Viccaro said.
Classes have been canceled six times already this year and as a result February break has been shortened by three days, Viccaro told Patch.
Francis said "most" of the CL&P crews were scheduled to return to the two towns on Thursday, the sixth day of the power outages.
"Our focus tomorrow will be Middlefield Road, Parmelee Hill Road area, Route 77 and the rest of Route 79 and Higganum Road. Once they get those major roads, those feeder roads done, they're gonna start hooking up all those connecting roads," Francis said.
Francis Willett, Durham's emergency management director, spent several minutes thanking crews and individuals involved in the recovery efforts, including the public works departments from both towns.
"The town crew is solely responsible for getting the roads cleared so quickly," Willett said. "If the road crew didn't do that work we would still be without power, we would still be waiting for CL&P. There's towns that are sitting on their hands waiting for someone to save them. We're very proud of the fact that we're saving ourselves before these people come in and get our stuff fixed."
Willett also thanked Lisa Davenport, the towns' CL&P liaison, who has met with town officials twice a day during recovery efforts.
"She's been phenomenal. I was pretty brutal with her last night, I didn't have a filter and look what happened. She went out and got crap done," explained Willett, who said he bought Davenport a bottle of champagne as a thank you.
As of 9 p.m. Wednesday, 1234 customers in Durham (40 percent) were still without power, while 911 Middlefield customers were still in the dark (42 percent).
"I feel very, very fortunate for all of us that so many resources in Connecticut by CL&P were dedicated to Durham and Middlefield," Francis said.