Malloy visits as town begins Sandy cleanup, residents still urged to stay home

Hurricane Sandy is gone, but its devastating aftermath is evident throughout town on Tuesday and Gov. Dannel Malloy got a first hand look.

Mr. Malloy met with First Selectman Peter Tesei and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4), a Cos Cob resident, on Tuesday morning as part of a series of visits around the state to see storm damage. Mr. Malloy visited Old Greenwich, which not only had large numbers of trees fall and waters from Long Island Sound flood the area, but also had three homes and a fourth structure burn in a fire. All four structures are considered total losses and while storm conditions made saving those homes impossible, the actions of Greenwich firefighters are being credited on Tuesday with preventing far more extensive damage to Old Greenwich.

“I think we’ve assembled together an unprecedented amount of assets that we’re loaning, lending and giving to municipalities,” Mr. Malloy said Tuesday morning. “I just got off the phone with the president and there’s no doubt that FEMA is responding to this set of circumstances in a different manner than how it responded to our two other events of last year [Hurricane Irene and the Halloween blizzard]. The enormity of the damage caused is real devastation on a large scale along the East Coast… We’re going to be in this for a while. We still have about 630,000 people without power in the state.”

 

Mr. Tesei called the fire and floods of Monday night, as well as the wind damage throughout town, “a dire situation” and thanked Mr. Malloy for everything the state had and would do to assist Greenwich’s recovery.

Fallen limbs and entire trees, downed wires, damaged homes were clear in all parts of town after the storm had left and as of 4:45 p.m., Connecticut Light & Power said that 23,385 customers, representing 83% of town, did not have power service. And with the heavy damage from the trees having to be removed first so extensive repairs can be made, residents may have to go days before service is restored.

However, town officials say that the damage could have been far worse. On Monday night there was intense concern over the possibility of massive flooding in town during the high tide period of 11 p.m. to midnight. Both the town and the state had said in the strongest possible terms for residents in low lying, coastal and flood areas to evacuate or get to the highest points of their buildings on Monday night, but the water ended up coming in below expectations.

Still it was significant as town Conservation Director Denise Savageau said that according to the Stamford Hurricane Barrier high tides equaled levels of the infamous 1938 hurricane that struck the area. They just didn’t exceed that, which had been feared. She said tides were close to 14 feet above elevation and the concern going into Monday’s high tide was they the water would exceed 17 and a half feet above elevation.

“We lucked out,” Ms. Savageau said. “The storm surge just absolutely stopped when it hit landfall. We expected the winds to keep up once it hit landfall, but when it actually did the wind speeds died down and the storm surge actually just plummeted. It was amazing how fast it went down. It actually went down quicker than it came up. We weren’t expecting that.”

High tide is expected to once again be higher than normal tonight, but is not considered to be at a dangerous level.

At Mr. Tesei’s request, Mr. Malloy deployed the state’s National Guard to Old Greenwich on Monday night to assist in the response to the flood waters. Mr. Tesei said the guard was “exceedingly helpful” once they arrived around 11:30 p.m. Monday night because it had vehicles that could travel in high water and assist with rescue of individuals who had not evacuated. He added this was particularly helpful getting help to a couple on Shore Road which was done by the guard and the Sound Beach Volunteer Fire Company.

Mr. Tesei thanked Mr. Malloy for the resources it had given to Greenwich during the storm and said there had been good communication throughout the event between the town and the state.

“I think the communications has been very good,” Mr. Tesei said. “There has been coordination between the inter-town agencies to pull together. I think the shelters have worked exceedingly well. Hats off to the Red Cross and the town’s Health Department for manning them and all of the volunteers that have come out to do their jobs in the fire services and elsewhere can’t be thanked enough.”

In the meantime, the cleanup is beginning and both Mr. Tesei and town police are urging residents to stay inside as much as possible to keep cars off the roads and to eliminate potential hazards to pedestrians. Tree limbs and wires can still fall due to wind or other causes, creating danger to people.

“If you are not directly involved in the cleanup, don’t go out and sightsee to get a look at the damage,” GPD Public Information Officer Lt. Kraig Gray said on Tuesday morning. “It’s going to take time for us to finish our assessment of what exactly needs to get done so we can prioritize the work of both CL&P and Connecticut Natural Gas as well as our town tree crews and police. We need to get the entire town up and functioning again and people taking a quick walk just around the corner to see what’s going on is not helping.”

Mr. Tesei said the immediate priorities are to clear areas critical to life-safety locations like Greenwich Hospital and the town’s nursing homes. Once that it done, the assignment is to open up the other roads in town. Mr. Tesei said that will be accomplished better with fewer people on the roads and, as he said this in Old Greenwich before his meeting with Mr. Malloy, he noted all the people walking, jogging and even bicycling through the neighborhood.

“People need to remain indoors,” Mr. Tesei said. “Right now people are venturing outdoors and there are hazardous conditions with downed lines and our workers out in the field. They are impeding the ability of those folks to do their job.”

Lt. Gray said there are police officers deployed all over town, including in their civilian vehicles, to assess the damage and make priorities. Because of that, Lt. Gray said, “The less vehicles out there, the better.”

Lt. Gray said that citizens have been very cooperative so far with the police department but that he didn’t think they realized the impact they were having by moving around like this when there are still a lot of hazards out there before the cleanup can begin in earnest, a process that is expected to take days to complete.

“Stay in and hunker down,” Lt. Gray said. “We said this would be for three days and just stay with that. Let our first responders do their work… The extreme weather part is over but the mission is not done.”

 

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