Heavy flooding expected tonight, Tesei says storm “catastrophic”

Calling the ongoing impact of Hurricane Sandy nothing less than a “catastrophic event,” First Selectman Peter Tesei and town officials warned of major flooding Monday night as high tide occurs.

At a briefing Monday night, Mr. Tesei stressed that residents should remain indoors if they are not in the mandatory evacuation zones. Saying that the storm was a “very serious and catastrophic upon us” the real damage could come tonight due to flood waters from Long Island Sound breaching seawalls.

Town Conservation Director Denise Savageau said that the flooding is a major concern for tonight because tides are coming in so high and the water is not receding. She said high tide at this time of year is typically seven and a half feet and they had already passed a sea level of eight feet hours before high tide which is between 11 p.m. and midnight.

“What we’re looking at is probably at least going to be an 11 foot storm surge on top of that,” Ms. Savageau said. “We’re thinking that unless things really turn around, which I am not expecting, we are looking at water reaching elevations of 16 to 18 feet, which puts us well into category four areas in terms of storm surge. This could be quite critical.”

The Stamford Hurricane Barrier has reported surges already of more than 10 feet and at times when water was supposed to be going out in the tide, it was still coming in.

The flooding is expected to heavily impact Old Greenwich, which Ms. Savageau said could end up “completely cut off.” The Post Road in Cos Cob could also be hit hard by flood waters, making parts of it impassable as well as other areas like South Water Street and River Road.

Ms. Savageau said people with access to the internet check the Stamford hurricane barrier website at nae.usace.army.mil/recreati/shb/shbhome.htm for more information. She said any residents left in these areas who have not evacuated should do so tonight by time around 8:30 p.m.

“If you wait more than an hour, the roads will be flooded and you will not be able to get out,” Ms. Savageau said. “If you don’t get out now, you’re not getting out.”

“The next 12 hours will be extremely critical to what takes place in the town of Greenwich and throughout the region,” Mr. Tesei said.

Conditions are now impacting emergency response. A fire at Binney Lane in Old Greenwich, which was in the mandatory evacuation zone, has caused the total loss of the structure. The residents were evacuated safely but because of the storm conditions, firefighter response could not extinguish the blaze before the home was destroyed. Firefighters had to abandon the scene due to the “intensity of the winds and the waves topping the seawall” according to Mr. Tesei.

“This is a critical situation and our first responders are doing their best,” Mr. Tesei said. “But if it gets to a point where they cannot reach someone we have to think about pulling back until the situation subsides. We’re not accomplishing anything at that point other than jeopardizing the life of a first responder. That’s why we broadcast and the governor broadcast so relentlessly to evacuate and not be in a situation where you could compromise yourself or a first responder.”

The heavy winds are also preventing Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) from making repairs to restore power right now since conditions are considered too unsafe.

Mr. Tesei said that as of Monday night there were 32 people staying at the town shelter at the Bendheim Western Greenwich Civic Center and 56 at the one at Eastern Middle School.

Ms. Savageau said anyone in those flood areas who can get out tonight by 8:30 p.m. at least should go to those shelters where they can be accomodated.

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