With worst of storm coming, town officials say not to be complacent

With the brunt of Hurricane Sandy expected to hit town tonight, Greenwich officials are warning residents not to be complacent just because the worst of the damage has not yet begun.

At a briefing in the town’s Public Safety Complex Monday morning, First Selectman Peter Tesei and several key town department heads, continued to urge any residents in low lying and coastal areas of town to heed the town’s evacuation order. This includes streets in Byram, Pemberwick, Cos Cob and Old Greenwich, all of whom were informed by the town’s reverse-911 system on Sunday. A full list of the neighborhoods impacted is available online at greenwichct.org/News/Emergency_Operations/Hurricane_Sandy_Evacuations_Ordered/

“I think most people are heeding the warning,” Mr. Tesei said. “I need to emphasize in our most strongest manner that this is not something to take a risk on. You are taking a risk with your life. You can replace property. You can’t replace lives. Don’t put your lives and the lives of our first responders at risk by ignoring this order.”

 

Mr. Tesei urged those evacuating to bring a three-day supply of clothes, medication and toiletries. According to the forecast, the town is expecting over the next 24-36 hours to feel high and long lasting winds which will likely knock down trees and potentially knock out power for days. Connecticut Light & Power, once the storm begins in earnest, will not safely be able to make repairs until the storm abates.

The town has passed its first high tide of the day and it has caused flooding in low lying areas like Steamboat Road, Strickland Road and roads near Grass Island. The next high tide, which will take place between 11 p.m. and midnight tonight is expected to be even more severe and cause more flooding from overtopping at a number of locations in town.

“That’s when the most extreme danger of this storm will be upon us,” Mr. Tesei said. “People should stay indoors and not travel unless necessary.”

Police Chief James Heavey added, “The less people that are out, the easier it will be for our first responders to respond to calls for CL&P to respond to restorations.”

With the worst of the storm not yet arrived, Fire Chief Peter Siecienski said at the briefing that this should not create a sense of false security.

“This is not a time to be complacent,” Chief Siecienski said. “Water levels are starting to rise. If there are people out there still trying to hedge their bets as to whether they should leave, we have to reiterate they should leave. This is how important the situation is. We actually have three stations [Horseneck, Cos Cob and Sound Beach] that would potentially be in flooded areas. Those stations are making contingency plans for the high tide tonight because they may have to pull back. If the emergency services are preparing to leave because of the high tides tonight, individuals and residents should be doing the same without a doubt.”

When you lose power, you should call CL&P at 1-800-286-2000. Gas leaks should also be reported at 1-866-924-5325. 911 should only be used for emergency purposes. All non-emergency calls for assistance should go to 203-622-8000. General information is online at greenwichct.org and at Greenwich-post.com and twitter.com/greenwichpost.

People running generators were once again urged to do so safely and do it away from their homes, and not indoors or in open garages, due to the possibility of lethal carbon monoxide poisoning. Residents were also reminded to keep away from all downed wires as they should be considered live and extremely dangerous.

The town has opened two emergency shelters. As of Monday morning the one at the Bendheim Western Greenwich Civic Center had 18 people staying there and the one at Eastern Middle School had 16 Both shelters are handicap accessible but only service animals are allowed so residents may not bring pets with them. Handicap residents who need assistance can get it from the Transportation Association of Greenwich, which is working with the town to help. Mr. Tesei said people experiencing difficulty due to medical conditions should call for assistance.

“They can bring you to a facility that can attend to your condition,” Mr. Tesei said. “We have The Nathaniel Witherell on standby with a certain number of beds available and of course Greenwich Hospital. No one who is vulnerable should be left without help during this event.”

All town parks, including Byram Park and Greenwich Point, are closed until further notice. Mr. Tesei warned anyone looking to “take advantage of the elements” by surfing or rafting not to do so.

“This presents a grave risk to those people as water surges in from Long Island Sound,” Mr. Tesei said. “You could be in a position of being seriously harmed.”

Greenwich Library is closed on Monday. During past storms where people lost power for significant time, people have used it as a hub to recharge phones and check e-mail. But due to the potential safety hazards of staff, no decision has been made yet about if the libraries will open on Tuesday. That decision could be made later tonight or even into tomorrow.

The next briefing is expected at 6 p.m. tonight.

 

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