The power is coming back for some New London businesses. Just not enough of it.
A number of sites in New London are experiencing “half power” as electricity restoration efforts continue after Hurricane Sandy. Buildings will sometimes have electricity in some areas but not in others.
Emergency Management Director Reid Burdick said the problem is a quirk of multiphase electrical systems. These systems usually have different sources feeding 110 volts each into a building along with buss bars that alternate the current to the circuit breakers. If one source is lost in a dual phase system, a building will get only half its electricity.
Some businesses have experienced alternating amounts of energy in the aftermath of the hurricane or changes in where electricity is available. Burdick has experienced this personally at his own business, Byles-MacDougall Funeral Service.
“We had part of the building working yesterday. We had the back of the building working and not the front,” he said. “Today we’ve got the front and no back.”
The issue is proving especially vexing for the Washington Street Coffee House, which opened only two weeks before the storm. The partial power is allowing them to preserve their food, but it has also prevented them from opening this week. Misha Labell, one owner of the shop, said a prolonged closing so soon after the opening is taxing their resources.
“It’s been especially big for us because we’re a new business,” said Misha Labell, one owner of the shop. “It’s definitely been stressful.”
Chris Sherman, another owner of the coffeehouse, said the business initially had power for the kitchen but not the counter, including the coffee machines. On Wednesday, the counter had power but the kitchen lost electricity. Labell and Sherman have run extension cords to the kitchen keep the refrigerator powered.
“We’re really just trying to save our food,” said Sherman. “Obviously we’re going to have to throw out a lot of things because it’s been four days.”
Labell said it has also been difficult to know when to prepare for reopening since Connecticut Light & Power is not estimating when power will be restored. She said she and Sherman are unwilling to buy more food until they know that it can be preserved.
At Spirit Gallery, general manager Lari Mostro said the business was closed on Tuesday due to the storm but has not been able to open since due to electricity issues. He said half of the business’s power was working on Tuesday, but by Thursday only a few lights and his computers and printers were operational. None of the tattoo stations were available.
“I have lights everywhere where I don’t need them,” he said.
Frank Poirot, a spokesperson for CL&P, said it was unclear whether the partial power issues are a result of the grid restoration or individual building systems. He said the company is focusing on restoring downed lines and people who continue to experience partial power problems should contact a licensed electrician.
“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us…as we work through it that condition might go away but it might be something very localized in the home or something along those lines,” said Poirot.
Other businesses were opening their doors but running at reduced capacity. Owners were aware that running some appliances on half power will damage the machines and were leaving those off.
Chris Armoutsoglou, owner of the Bank Street Cobbler, said his 110 volt systems were operational. However, his finishing machines run on 220 volt power and could not be used.
“I’m pretty much disabled if I don’t have those machines to operate,” he said.
However, Armoutsoglou remained open for his regular business hours on Thursday. He said he was still able to pick up and send out work while waiting for the power to be restored.
Sweetie’s Bakery and Cafe was also running with only partial power but continued to attract lunch patrons. Executive chef Aaron Dronberger grilled sandwiches as The Producers played on an overhead television and a portable light illuminated the darkened rear portion of the restaurant.
“We had the sandwich station, but we had to run an extension cord to make coffee,” he said.
Dronberger said the cafe only had one extension cord at hand, but pastry chef Lindsay Kreutter’s father provided them with additional cords to power other appliances. Dronberger said no food has been lost, but the cafe has not been able to offer its full menu.
Kreutter said the oven and dishwasher voltages are too high to operate. She made prepared some goods to bake fresh this morning but found it would not be possible.
“My station’s down,” said Kreutter. “My oven’s down today. Yesterday we were limping along, but today we’re dragging.”
Kreutter said the restaurant was focused on keeping its products in the refrigerators and freezers preserved. Dronberger said he has been balancing the use of the different electrical products to keep the restaurant functional without overloading the system.
“Hopefully the power will come back tomorrow,” he said.