Town stresses need for flood areas to evacuate before storm hits

Greenwich First Selectman Peter Tesei and the heads of the town’s emergency services departments had a simple message to the 4,000 homes impacted by mandatory evacuations in flood areas.

Get out.

With heavy winds as a result of Hurricane Sandy that are expected to wreak havoc on the tides over the next 36-48 hours, Mr. Tesei, Chief of Police James Heavey and Fire Chief Peter Siecienski urged residents to comply with the mandatory evacuation order that went out this afternoon for residents in low lying and coastal areas that have experienced flooding before. The impacted residents were informed of this order by the town’s reverse-911 system and notices were hand delivered to area homes as well.

The order impacts neighborhoods in Byram, Cos Cob, Pemberwick and, particularly, Old Greenwich. Chief Heavey estimated the evacuation was for close to 4,000 homes, many with several residents in them. Mr. Tesei said he had additionally closed Tod’s Point for tomorrow to keep people out of the area due to the expected flooding. A map of the impacted areas and a list of which neighborhoods are asked to evacuate is available at greenwichct.org.

 

“To put it bluntly, people should get out of those neighborhoods now if they have not done so,” Mr. Tesei said. “This is not something we’ve encountered before. It’s not something we want to look back on and say we should have done more to impress upon people. This is the real thing. The force of this storm is on us.”

Chief Siecienski further stressed this.

“If you are in the evacuation areas, please leave,” Chief Siecienski said. “Please do not our personnel in a position where we have to come out and in some places may not be able to come out. And if you are not in these areas, during the duration of the storm, please stay indoors. You don’t want anyone near live wires and you don’t want anyone hit by falling limbs. Stay in and stay hunkered down.”

According to Mr. Tesei, the storm is expected to have a heavy impact over the next 36 hours starting Sunday night with increased winds of 50 mph and “astronomical high tide” above sea walls starting on Monday. Mr. Tesei said things are expected to intensify on Monday with things not really culminating until Monday night into early Tuesday. Mr. Tesei said it’s important for people to get out now because by Monday, when the storm is at its strongest there will be an “inability to get to people” because of flooding.

In order to facilitate emergency response on Monday, Chief Heavey told residents to restrict their travel.

“All unnecessary traffic should stay off the road,” Chief Heavey said. “This will allow police, fire and EMS to better respond to an emergency and it will also allow restoration crews to work the most efficiently.”

Mr. Tesei said that he had been in contact with the governor’s office on the forecast and had consulted with town officials throughout the day at the Emergency Operations Center inside the public safety complex. The press briefing on Sunday night included not only Chief Heavey and Chief Siecienski but also Greenwich Emergency Medical Services Director Charlee Tufts, town Commissioner of Public Works Amy Siebert, town Director of Health Caroline Baisley, Selectmen Dave Theis and Drew Marzullo, State Sen. L. Scott Frantz (R-36) and State Rep. Livvy Floren.

If people cannot find shelter with a friend or get a hotel room, the town has opened two shelters. The shelter at Eastern Middle School is being run by the Greenwich chapter of the Red Cross and the one at the Bendheim Western Greenwich Civic Center is being managed by the town’s Department of Health. Eastern Middle School has seven residents staying overnight into Monday with an estimated 150 cots available. The civic center could fit a maximum of 125 cots according to Ms. Baisley. Hot food and room to play for kids is available at both locations.

Chief Heavey said there are plans being drawn up for additional shelter space if it is needed in town.

Chief Siecienski also urged residents using generators to use them safely and not put them in their homes, including not in their garages with the doors open. That can cause lethal carbon monoxide poisoning as well as leaving a car running in an open garage to charge up a phone or an iPad.

Town Hall will be closed tomorrow to all personnel who are not considered “essential to the response” according to Mr. Tesei. Additionally Greenwich Library, which in past storms had been used as a main hub for people charging their phones and checking e-mail will be closed on Monday due to the potential threat of the storm to staff coming into work. Mr. Tesei said he was hopeful that the library could be reopened on Tuesday.

Power loss from the storm is expected to be significant and Mr. Tesei told residents to be patient when it came to restoration.

“Once your power goes out, do not anticipate it to come back for several days until after the intensity of the storm passes,” Mr. Tesei said. “What [Connecticut Light & Power] does is first address life safety facilities like the hospital and nursing homes. Then they do an assessment on what happened and send out crews accordingly. That’s going to take several days. Let’s all understand what we’ve been told so there’s no misunderstanding.”

Residents who lose power are urged to call Connecticut Light & Power at 1-800-286-2000. If there are gas issues, people should call Connecticut Natural Gas at 1-866-924-5325. Emergencies should be referred to 911 but calls that are not emergencies can be sent to 203-622-8000. General information will up at the town’s website at greenwichct.org.

Cell coverage for residents could be spotty tomorrow. Town Emergency Management Director Daniel Warzoha said on Sunday he had been in contact with Verizon and AT&T and that he anticipated “given the potential devastation that could occur, cell service will deteriorate over a 48-hour period in this area” due to the amount of usage.

There will be two updates from Mr. Tesei and the town on Monday, one at 11 a.m. and one at 6 p.m.

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