Darien braces for another hurricane season
Published 12:00 am, Thursday, June 23, 2016
DARIEN — As the winds of Hurricane Sandy roared and the tides surged, many families fled the town’s battered coastline and sought refuge at Darien High School in October 2012.
Along the way, roads were flooded and closed. Schools and Town Hall had closed their doors. Trees fell with alarming frequency and much of the town was without power.
When the storm finally ended, 24 states — including Connecticut and the entire Eastern seaboard — had been hit especially hard.
“We went through a series of events back to back with Irene and Sandy, so I think it changed people’s mindset a bit,” said Marc McEwan, Darien’s emergency management director, though he added destructive hurricanes are not unprecedented in Darien.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last month that the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, would be “near normal” with one to four major hurricanes predicted.
But given the uncertain climate signals that make predictions difficult, NOAA said there is still a 30 percent chance for an above-normal hurricane season this year.
For coastal towns such as Darien, the need for preparation never goes away.
“Without a doubt, the most important safety procedure is communication to our residents and businesses in advance of a storm,” First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said via email.
“If we have the benefit of advance notice, we try to begin our town preparations 72 hours in advance of the forecasted storm.”
In the event of a dangerous storm or other emergency, the town activates its CodeRed system to contact all listed numbers with the latest information. Safety information is also broadcast on local radio and television stations.
The town signals a hurricane watch when there is a threat of hurricane conditions within 24 to 36 hours, and a hurricane warning “when dangerously high water and rough seas are expected in 24 hours or less,” according to the Town of Darien Preparedness Guide, available on the town’s website.
But Stevenson says that communication, although effective, can be too little, too late if proper safety measures are not taken by individuals before a storm strikes.
As a result, the town’s approach includes interdepartmental coordination and training exercises simulating weather-related events, hazardous chemical releases and biological events.
Residents in hurricane evacuation zones should be prepared to evacuate as storms approach, the town’s Preparedness Guide suggests.
“Flooding is by far the biggest concern, but we experience flooding normally. I think people who have lived here for a while know what to brace for and that it’s a necessity to be prepared.’ The nice thing is forecasts have gotten more exact. We’re aware of storms forming in the tropics two or three weeks before they reach us,“ McEwan said.