It was the year of the storm — and not just because of all that snow, rain and wind. The state's budget battle led to a union showdown and the largest tax increase in Connecticut's history. Troubled local police departments weathered internal investigations and tragic suicides. Another chapter ended in the horrible Cheshire home invasion case with a guilty verdict and death sentence. And the UConn Huskies took the men's college basketball world by storm with an improbable run to the national title.
Here's a look back at some of the top stories of a tumultuous 2011:
If nothing else, 2011 will be remembered for its bone-chilling, roof-ripping, rain-and-wind-driven, branch-breaking weather. Early in the year, heavy snowstorms collapsed roofs throughout the state, and fueled a frantic run on roof rakes and snowblowers.
The state escaped the worst of a string of tornadoes that pummeled southern Massachusetts, devastating the town of Monson.
By the time Hurricane Irene reached the state, it had been downgraded to a tropical storm. But the ferocious winds still ravaged coastal communities such as Cosey Beach in East Haven, where homeowners' waterfront cottages were ripped to shreds.
Halloween weekend brought Mother Nature's final trick — a snowstorm that toppled leaf-covered trees whose branches snapped power lines at such a fast clip that much of the state was left without power for days. The resulting lag in electric restoration created such a firestorm that the head of Connecticut Light & Power, the state's largest utility, was forced to resign.
After a summer of layoff threats and rescinded layoffs, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and state unions agreed on a $1.6 billion savings and concession deal.
Some Republicans charged that Malloy's accomplishment was somewhat hollow — they estimated that at least $600 million of the savings and concessions consists of smoke and mirrors designed to balance the two-year state budget. Even the legislature's nonpartisan fiscal office said it could not verify some of the financial assumptions, although Malloy and his budget chief said they were confident that they will reach the projected savings.
By the end of November, budget officials were projecting a surplus of more than $100 million in the current fiscal year — finally pushing the state back into the black.
Although the number might seem surprising after years of major budget problems, the surplus is attributable to the largest tax hike in state history, which started July 1, as well as to the state income tax hikes retroactive to Jan. 1. The surplus also represents less than 1 percent of the state's $20 billion annual budget, and officials cautioned that volatility in the unpredictable stock market over the next six months could change the projections markedly — making the surplus either higher or lower.
Now, $8.5 billion of the $20 billion annual budget will be paid through the state income tax. That is largely because lawmakers have steadily increased the rates on the state's wealthiest residents
The first clue that the 2010-11 edition of the UConn men's basketball team was something special came in November of last year. The Huskies, unranked in preseason polls, beat Wichita State, Michigan State and Kentucky to win the Maui Invitational.
UConn jumped to No. 7 in the next poll. With Kemba Walker leading the way, the Huskies stormed through the postseason — winning 10 straight on the way to the national title game against upstart Butler.
Playing in front of a crowd of more than 70,000 in Houston, UConn trailed by three at halftime but went on a 20-3 run in the second half. Butler had no answer for Walker and super freshman Jeremy Lamb. The Huskies won easily, 53-41, holding Butler to an atrocious 18.8 percent shooting and winning for the second time in as many games despite posting a season-low point total.
It was UConn's third national championship.
It was the crime that stunned a state. The 2007 home invasion that ended in the deaths of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and daughters Hayley and Michaela inside their Cheshire home reminded many of the slayings from Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood."