HARTFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano toured the devastation left behind by Sandy in Connecticut by helicopter on Thursday.
“The damage assessments will begin tomorrow and we’ll work our way through those very quickly, hopefully they’ll be done by the end of the weekend,” Napolitano told reporters in Bridgeport after the aerial tour, including WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane.
Napolitano told reporters in Bridgeport that the federal government will work closely with local officials to speed the recovery.
WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reports
The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved a disaster declaration for Connecticut’s four shoreline counties on Tuesday.
The Secretary was joined by Gov. Dannel Malloy and members of the state’s congressional delegation in viewing the damage from New Haven to Fairfield.
Secretary Napolitano said she’s confident requests for aid beyond the shoreline communities will be viewed favorably.
Malloy said ruined homes along the coast are surrounded by water. But emergency shelter populations are going down, which officials said is a positive sign that residents are able to safely go home.
When asked if he thinks Connecticut is taking a back seat to the relief effort being provided New Jersey or New York, Malloy said the state is getting all the help it has asked for.
“Listen, the Secretary’s here very quickly. No one should have that feeling,” Malloy said.” Our hearts go out to the people of New Jersey who are dealing with unprecedented damage that puts ours well in perpective.”
Other state officials said federal assistance will be there for all in the state who need it.
“There is no way to compare disasters but certainly the destruction here merits a prompt and effective federal response and we’re going to get it,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal told reporters after the helicopter tour.
This was the second visit by Napolitano in 14 months. She toured areas damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in East Haven in September 2011.
“One of the things about Irene is there got to be some really good personal relationships between FEMA personnel and folks on the ground here. That always helps,” Napolitano said.
As residents wait for federal assistance to help in the recovery effort, they are also coping with widespread power outages.
Connecticut’s largest utility says it will “substantially complete” restoring power to customers by Monday or Tuesday.
WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau On The Story
Bill Quinlan, senior vice president for Connecticut Light & Power, told reporters on Thursday he would not be more specific because of the extent of damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. He said about 2 percent of customers will not have power on Tuesday.
United Illuminating said earlier it expects to restore power to 95 percent of its customers before midnight on Monday.
Connecticut Light & Power reported that 249,225 customers were without electricity Thursday morning. About 109,000 UI customers were without electricity.
Quinlan told WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau that he hopes to double the number of line men on the job to 2,000.
Some local officials have complained about the pace of power being restored as frustration rises among some residents and businesses.
Bridgeport’s mayor says Connecticut’s largest city is poorly served by United Illuminating as nearly 28,000 residents are still without power, days after Superstorm Sandy battered shoreline communities.
Mayor Bill Finch said he is “sick and tired of Bridgeport being short-changed.”
He says Bridgeport has the largest number of United Illuminating ratepayers and should be treated better by the New Haven-based utility.
Michael West, a spokesman for the utility, told Fox Connecticut that the company does not pick favorites among customers. He says no one wants customers restored faster than does the utility.
The Connecticut Post reported that instead of going down, outage numbers in Bridgeport began rising late Tuesday and fell again on Wednesday night, dropping to 27,000 without power.
By Thursday morning, the number of Bridgeport customers without electricity was 27,704.
Amid all of this, there is some truly good news. Limited service has resumed on Metro-North Railroad.