The power outage that knocked out electrical service to virtually all of Cornwall at the stroke of 9:35 Wednesday nightended almost as suddenly and comprehensively at around 10:30 Thursday morning. By then, more than 80 percent of Cornwall homes were back online, though Goshen, the other hard-hit Connecticut town, was taking longer to restore.

As irksomely familiar as local power failures have become in recent years, the latest incident had some distinctive features.

Large-scale outages usually happen when storms knock down trees and limbs over a widespread area, pulling down power lines and closing roads all over. That didn’t quite happen this time, explained First Selectman Gordon Ridgway after discussions with Eversource. Damage was instead concentrated on transmission facilities in Kent and Goshen, which normally feed power to Cornwall’s system, Ridgway said. Roads stayed open—with the notable exception of Route 7 near Kent Falls—and the usual perils posed by exposed electrical cables were minimized.

Climate change has made this kind of event more likely by spawning microbursts, narrowly focused downward winds that can reach 100 miles an hour in a severe thunderstorm. Damage to power-system hubs can require equipment replacement that can delay restoration for days, although that didn’t seem to happen this time.

Ridgway underscored another underappreciated hazard created by outages: carbon monoxide emissions from the generators that many residents have installed as extended outages became more frequent. He said the Cornwall Volunteer Fire Department received a high volume of calls from households reporting high indoor levels of the dangerous gas, which can happen when a generator is within about 10 feet of a house and windows are open. His advice: Move the generator or keep the windows closed.

— Jonathan Landman

📸: Eversource