Editor's Note: This story, updated just before 4:30 p.m., has been updated to include Malloy's pitch to President Obama to declare a state of emergency.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has asked President Barack Obama to declare a state of emergency in Connecticut before Irene strikes the state on Sunday. If approved, the declaration would allow the state to request funding and other assistance for storm damages.
“Hurricane Irene is a serious threat to our state, and this declaration will allow us to request federal funding and other assistance in Connecticut in advance of the storm,” Malloy said. “As the hours go by, we are more and more certain that Hurricane Irene will have either a direct or substantial impact on our state, and I’m not willing to wait until afterward to ask the federal government for help. The best case scenario is that we don’t end up needing this – the worst case scenario is we do, and it’s too late to begin to ask.”
Earlier today, Malloy said he is “absolutely, 100 percent” urging anyone who’s ever experienced storm flooding to leave those areas by midnight Saturday, when the brunt of Hurricane Irene is expected to hit the state.
“You must, from this moment forward, assume that area will flood again,” Malloy said during a press conference in the Emergency Operations Center at the State Armory in Hartford this afternoon.
Malloy also said he may order the closure of certain highways by midnight tomorrow and urged all state residents to complete their preparations for Irene by that point and to be in a safe place.
“Everything bad that is going to happen is going to happen by 12 O’clock tomorrow night and until 12 O’clock Sunday,” Malloy said. “To plan on being out of one’s home, out of one’s safe place after that hour simply doesn’t make sense. We have time to prepare and that time is now until midnight Saturday. You have the rest of today and all day tomorrow to prepare yourself in a calm and reasoned way.”
Malloy said his office is not currently considering any forced evacuations, but that could change over the next 24 hours, depending on forecasts of Irene’s severity. In the meantime, he said officials in his office are developing emergency evacuation plans for Connecticut cities along the coast, “from Greenwich to New Haven.”
Storm surges along the shoreline, he said, are expected to be about 4 to 5 feet high.
The Connecticut National Guard, he said, stands ready to assist with hurricane emergencies and cleanup, with some 200 guardsmen deploying this week and 500 more on Monday.
In addition, Malloy said CL&P will have an extra 600 employees on duty this weekend, including workers brought in from other states and employees whose vacations were canceled by the company so they could remain in the state and help restore power.
The governor’s office has also spoken with hospitals, universities and other large facilities to ensure that they have adequate back-up energy systems in the event of widespread and lengthy outages.
“We will work with those institutions to make sure we make life as easy as possible for them.”
Malloy said power outages will be one of the main problems during the storm. The state is more heavily wooded now than it was during the last hurricane of this size, Hurricane Gloria in 1985, and with all the rains this spring and summer the ground and root systems of many trees are saturated, making them prone to toppling.
His office is planning on closing the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways because those highways run through low-lying, flood-prone areas and are bordered by dense stands of trees.
“People should assume, that come midnight Saturday, those highways will be closed.”
He may close other highways, Malloy said, if the need arises.
The governor will update the state on the hurricane and his emergency planning initiatives at 6 p.m. today.