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Darien starting to emerge from Sandy's devastation

Published 3:12 pm, Thursday, November 1, 2012

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  • Two huge trees on Weeburn Lane off of Hollow Tree Hill Road fell side by side during Hurricane Sandy's fierce winds Monday night. Photo: Contributed
    Two huge trees on Weeburn Lane off of Hollow Tree Hill Road fell side by side during Hurricane Sandy's fierce winds Monday night. Photo: Contributed

 

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Disaster, assessment, recovery and restoration efforts following the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy earlier this week continue around the clock in Darien, but the danger of fire is high as power is restored because of exposed wires, according to First Selectman Jayme Stevenson.

No fires have occurred but Darien officials are on alert to protect against the threat.

Throughout the storm and recovery process, Darien police and other town officials have warned residents about the danger of downed live wires and trees.

The town and Connecticut Light & Power have been working since the hurricane ended to restore power, but Stevenson said the restoration will take time. She requests Darien residents' patience.

"Public Works and CL&P crews are making steady progress," Stevenson said in a storm update. "CL&P is systematically restoring service to the backbone of their system."

More than 90 percent of CL&P's customers in Darien were without power starting from Monday night, at the height of the storm. But Stevenson said a good portion of power has been restored to the area south of I-95 between Holly Pond and Gorham's Pond and just north of I-95 in the Noroton Heights area.

According to CL&P, as of Thursday morning, 57 percent of its customers still didn't have power, down 30 percent from Wednesday.

Stevenson advised residents to use caution with generators and to ensure they are properly vented.

"Never attempt to clear trees from downed power lines," Stevenson said. "Telephone and cable lines are dangerous when touching electric wires."

Flooding

Flood damage -- estimated by officials to be major -- is still being assessed in Darien.

There is no specific information yet on the extent of the flood damage in Darien because downed wires and trees have been preventing crews from entering the flooded areas. However, Marc McEwan at the Emergency Operations Center said damage is extensive along the coast, including Tokeneke, Rings End Road, Long Neck Point Road, Holly Pond Area, Goodwives River and Nearwater Lane, all of which experienced major flooding.

On Monday in the early evening, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson and the staff of the Emergency Operations Center were anxious that not only was the town expecting an 11-foot, higher-than-normal high tide, but also a shift in the wind, pushing the water on shore and particularly at high tide at midnight.

On Tuesday, McEwan said, "Currently, we're still assessing the damage and the areas of town have been cut off from accessibility. We have very limited information as far as what was damaged and how badly it was damaged."

He said there is a list of about 30 homes with damage but the extent is unknown.

"I know the Darien Boat Club and the Noroton Yacht Club had extensive damage," McEwan said. "There was some damage that was done Nearwater Lane."

Road Closures and Driving

After Sandy left the area, Darien seemed like a real-life labyrinth -- getting around was nearly impossible as trees blocked numerous roads in town.

The town, CL&P and several private subcontractors have been working to clear the roads as quickly as possible.

As of Thursday morning, the following streets are now passable: Post Road; Hoyt Street; West Avenue; Noroton Avenue; Ledge Road; Camp Cavenue; Leroy Avenue; Middelsex road from Stamford to Hanson Road; Tokeneke Road; Long Neck Point Road; Nearwater Lane; Old Kings Highway North; Hollow Tree Ridge Road north to Crooked Mile; Goodwives River; Half Mile; Ox Ridge Lane

The following roads remain closed: Mansfield Avenue between Knollwood and Peach Hill; Brookside Road at Overbrook; Old Kings Highway South at Quaker Lane and McCray; West Norwalk Road; Locust Hill at Settler's Trail; Stephen Mather Road; Raymond Street; Talmadge Hill Road between Hollow Tree and Mansfield Avenue.

"After we clear all main roads, we will begin clearing side streets," Stevenson said.

One resident of Dubois Street, who declined to provide his name, said Hurricane Sandy wasn't as bad as Hurricane Irene, which took place a year ago, in many ways. "You look down the street and it's almost like nothing happened," said the resident, who was without power, but didn't plan to leave his home.

Variable message signs have been placed at both ends of Post Road to alert motorists of important safety concerns.

"Please use extreme caution at all intersections," Stevenson said. She described driving in Darien as "treacherous." There were several car accidents on Wednesday because traffic lights on the Post Road are not working.

Storm Recovery and Shelter

President Barack Obama has issued a "Disaster Declaration" for Fairfield County, which means it will receive direct federal assistance. Information on filing personal loss claims can be found at FEMA.gov and at Darien Town Hall.

Darien High School continues to be used as a shelter and "will remain open as long as residents need a place of safety," said Stevenson.

Water and meals are being provided, but residents are advised to bring any items for personal comfort and toiletries. Showers are available but hot water is not guaranteed.

"At this time, finding shelter with family and friends in areas outside of town should be considered," Stevenson said.

Regional shelters also are available at Stamford High School and Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk. In the case of emergency shelter, residents should call the Darien police at 203-662-5300.

The Darien Library is open for recharging electronics and the use of wi-fi from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. The YMCA is open from 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. to the public for showers and recharging electronics.

All Darien parks are open but residents must use caution near downed trees. Weed Beach playground is open but the junior sailing facilities are damaged and dangerous, according to Stevenson.

As of Thursday morning, Stevenson said, 30 food establishments are open, but the downtown areas between Interstate 95 and railroad bridge are still without power.

The transfer station will be open until 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday and on Sunday for debris only from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

mdavis@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4407; twitter.com/megdariennews