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Tetreau: Poor UI storm response
Beach area devastated, 97% of town lost power, 300 trees uprooted


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Worse than last year’s Hurricane Irene, worse than the storm of 1992 and worse than the Hurricane of 1938, said First Selectman Michael Tetreau about the storm that was named Sandy.

It was the storm of a lifetime, said many. Others had dire predictions for worse storms to come.

Sandy was like two storms, everyone said. On the one hand, she dumped an 11-foot surge of water in the beach area inundating streets almost as far inland as Old Post Road. On the other hand, Sandy uprooted over 300 large trees that took power lines to the ground with them—not to mention hundreds of other trees that fell without any entangling electrical alliances.



Between the trees and the water, Fairfield found 97 percent of its residents with no electricity on Tuesday morning.

It wasn’t until the following Monday that that percentage was almost reversed. At that time, UI said 10.7 percent were out of power. By noon on Election Day, 2.5 percent were without power, excluding the beach area. There were still 19 streets blocked by downed trees and wires. School had been closed for more than a week.

At the height of the storm, some said water was four to six feet deep at the corner of Reef Road and Fairfield Beach Road.

What was certain is that the water came farther inland and receded more slowly than it did after Hurricane Irene last year, said Tetreau.

When Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman arrived on Wednesday to see the destruction first-hand, Police Chief Gary MacNamara told her that firefighters were doing a search of every house on the western end of Fairfield Beach Road, a peninsula with one road down the middle and houses on each side.

While most beach-area residents had heeded the order to evacuate, a few didn’t and six people on that western end of Fairfield Beach Road were rescued by boat the next day. Continued...

Assistant Chief Scott Bisson told Wyman that there were four specialized teams going door to door, checking to make sure that there was no one in a house, and if there was, did they need help? Some were rescued.

As Wyman looked across Pine Creek at Fairfield Beach Road, someone pointed out the roof of a house, floating down Pine Creek with the tide.

The Lt. Governor said that all four Connecticut counties located on Long Island Sound had been declared areas eligible for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) disaster funds. MacNamara pointed to a police boat that was escorting FEMA officials as they spoke.

MacNamara acknowledged at a meeting, held by town officials at First Church Congregational on Friday, that the Beach area was the most devastated. Tetreau later said that four or five homes were totally destroyed and another 20 or 30 in town were uninhabitable. Additional building inspectors had been hired, and would be hired, to inspect the rest.

The western end of Fairfield Beach Road had all utilities, electricity, water and natural gas, shut off in the middle of the storm because, Tetreau said. All the homes are on one line and when one home is destroyed, gas can leak, water can become contaminated and electricity can cause fires. So all homes were turned off.

Bringing utilities back online will be a multi-step process, MacNamara said. First sand would be cleared from Fairfield Beach Road so vehicles can get through. It was sort of like plowing snow. By Friday afternoon, that was done so that a car could drive to the far end.

Then, each homeowner would have to hire an electrician to certify that their home is safe. The electrician will tell the building department, which will tell the utility company.

Tetreau said the water and the gas companies will certify if a home can be turned on for those utilities.

On Monday, Nov. 5, police had established a command post at Veteran’s Park on Reef Road. Homeowners would be able to stop here to get a “pass” that would allow them and their contractors to go onto the western end of Fairfield Beach Road. The National Guard was already manning the roadblocks.

There would also be a warming tent at Veterans Park and for two days, and FEMA reps would be there to talk with residents in person. It wasn’t certain how long the amenities would stay, particularly in light of the impending Nor’easter. Continued...

As First Selectman Mike Tetreau had said to Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman barely two days after the storm, “We’ve got plenty of people to remove trees. We’ve removed every tree that doesn’t have a power line attached to it … Most of our town isn’t flooded so we have plenty for UI (United Illuminating) to do if they were here.”

UI apparently sent one crew at first, then three crews for a town of nearly 60,000 people, as one man noted at a town hall style meeting held at Greenfield Hills Congregational Church on Thursday.

“It is abominable,” said resident Ron Holmberg, who added that if the chairmen of the boards of the utility companies took bonuses at the end of the year, there should be legal consequences, because “They shouldn’t be allowed to take that kind of money for lack of services and false promises.”

Things got rather heated as people asked the First Selectman why he hadn’t managed to get the utility company to respond faster. He said he was on the phone to them constantly.

As the grumbling increased in volume, State Representative Tony Hwang said, “Let’s take a step back … It’s cold. We don’t have power. Some of our homes have been damaged, but I’m happy to say that no one has died.”

“Let’s recognize that we have great volunteers and first responders that have been working twelve-hour long days and doing the best they can … We’ve had a volunteer firefighter in Easton die,” Hwang said of Lt. Russell Neary.

“But having said that, I can reassure everyone that UI is not getting a free pass,” he said, promising the utilities were being “pummeled” by legislators at every turn.

MacNamara said that the town was stepping up police presence in the beach area, as a prevention for looting, and he warned the residents about falling victim to people who would scam them; who promised to fix their house, quickly, or cheaply. “I’m afraid because you’re anxious to get things repaired, you may fall victim. Call us if you’re unsure,” he said.

“If people say they’re a FEMA rep, make sure they are,” he added.

The next day, Friday, Tetreau began the meeting at First Church Congregational by announcing that there were now 56 crews and 120 people, working on power lines. He said that Green Cycle and the Transfer station (dump) were open and would be open longer hours. Continued...

The Town had hired people to pump out the extra water.

Polling places would be open for Election Day, he said. He noted that it was the state government that had told the utility companies to make polling places a priority.

For information about the storm and non-emergency calls, dial 203-254-4899.

For FEMA assistance, call 800-621-3362 or go to their web site: disasterassistance.com.
Worse than last year’s Hurricane Irene, worse than the storm of 1992 and worse than the Hurricane of 1938, said First Selectman Michael Tetreau about the storm that was named Sandy.

It was the storm of a lifetime, said many. Others had dire predictions for worse storms to come.

Sandy was like two storms, everyone said. On the one hand, she dumped an 11-foot surge of water in the beach area inundating streets almost as far inland as Old Post Road. On the other hand, Sandy uprooted over 300 large trees that took power lines to the ground with them—not to mention hundreds of other trees that fell without any entangling electrical alliances.



Between the trees and the water, Fairfield found 97 percent of its residents with no electricity on Tuesday morning.

It wasn’t until the following Monday that that percentage was almost reversed. At that time, UI said 10.7 percent were out of power. By noon on Election Day, 2.5 percent were without power, excluding the beach area. There were still 19 streets blocked by downed trees and wires. School had been closed for more than a week.

At the height of the storm, some said water was four to six feet deep at the corner of Reef Road and Fairfield Beach Road.

What was certain is that the water came farther inland and receded more slowly than it did after Hurricane Irene last year, said Tetreau.

When Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman arrived on Wednesday to see the destruction first-hand, Police Chief Gary MacNamara told her that firefighters were doing a search of every house on the western end of Fairfield Beach Road, a peninsula with one road down the middle and houses on each side.

While most beach-area residents had heeded the order to evacuate, a few didn’t and six people on that western end of Fairfield Beach Road were rescued by boat the next day.

Assistant Chief Scott Bisson told Wyman that there were four specialized teams going door to door, checking to make sure that there was no one in a house, and if there was, did they need help? Some were rescued.

As Wyman looked across Pine Creek at Fairfield Beach Road, someone pointed out the roof of a house, floating down Pine Creek with the tide.

The Lt. Governor said that all four Connecticut counties located on Long Island Sound had been declared areas eligible for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) disaster funds. MacNamara pointed to a police boat that was escorting FEMA officials as they spoke.

MacNamara acknowledged at a meeting, held by town officials at First Church Congregational on Friday, that the Beach area was the most devastated. Tetreau later said that four or five homes were totally destroyed and another 20 or 30 in town were uninhabitable. Additional building inspectors had been hired, and would be hired, to inspect the rest.

The western end of Fairfield Beach Road had all utilities, electricity, water and natural gas, shut off in the middle of the storm because, Tetreau said. All the homes are on one line and when one home is destroyed, gas can leak, water can become contaminated and electricity can cause fires. So all homes were turned off.

Bringing utilities back online will be a multi-step process, MacNamara said. First sand would be cleared from Fairfield Beach Road so vehicles can get through. It was sort of like plowing snow. By Friday afternoon, that was done so that a car could drive to the far end.

Then, each homeowner would have to hire an electrician to certify that their home is safe. The electrician will tell the building department, which will tell the utility company.

Tetreau said the water and the gas companies will certify if a home can be turned on for those utilities.

On Monday, Nov. 5, police had established a command post at Veteran’s Park on Reef Road. Homeowners would be able to stop here to get a “pass” that would allow them and their contractors to go onto the western end of Fairfield Beach Road. The National Guard was already manning the roadblocks.

There would also be a warming tent at Veterans Park and for two days, and FEMA reps would be there to talk with residents in person. It wasn’t certain how long the amenities would stay, particularly in light of the impending Nor’easter.

As First Selectman Mike Tetreau had said to Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman barely two days after the storm, “We’ve got plenty of people to remove trees. We’ve removed every tree that doesn’t have a power line attached to it … Most of our town isn’t flooded so we have plenty for UI (United Illuminating) to do if they were here.”

UI apparently sent one crew at first, then three crews for a town of nearly 60,000 people, as one man noted at a town hall style meeting held at Greenfield Hills Congregational Church on Thursday.

“It is abominable,” said resident Ron Holmberg, who added that if the chairmen of the boards of the utility companies took bonuses at the end of the year, there should be legal consequences, because “They shouldn’t be allowed to take that kind of money for lack of services and false promises.”

Things got rather heated as people asked the First Selectman why he hadn’t managed to get the utility company to respond faster. He said he was on the phone to them constantly.

As the grumbling increased in volume, State Representative Tony Hwang said, “Let’s take a step back … It’s cold. We don’t have power. Some of our homes have been damaged, but I’m happy to say that no one has died.”

“Let’s recognize that we have great volunteers and first responders that have been working twelve-hour long days and doing the best they can … We’ve had a volunteer firefighter in Easton die,” Hwang said of Lt. Russell Neary.

“But having said that, I can reassure everyone that UI is not getting a free pass,” he said, promising the utilities were being “pummeled” by legislators at every turn.

MacNamara said that the town was stepping up police presence in the beach area, as a prevention for looting, and he warned the residents about falling victim to people who would scam them; who promised to fix their house, quickly, or cheaply. “I’m afraid because you’re anxious to get things repaired, you may fall victim. Call us if you’re unsure,” he said.

“If people say they’re a FEMA rep, make sure they are,” he added.

The next day, Friday, Tetreau began the meeting at First Church Congregational by announcing that there were now 56 crews and 120 people, working on power lines. He said that Green Cycle and the Transfer station (dump) were open and would be open longer hours.

The Town had hired people to pump out the extra water.

Polling places would be open for Election Day, he said. He noted that it was the state government that had told the utility companies to make polling places a priority.

For information about the storm and non-emergency calls, dial 203-254-4899.

For FEMA assistance, call 800-621-3362 or go to their web site: disasterassistance.com.

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