Towns clean up after storm

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Hurricane Irene didn’t stay long, but she left her mark on local towns as she passed through Connecticut Sunday.

On Monday, local towns began the process of recovering from the hurricane that left many residents without power and one local resident dead.

Charlotte Levine, 89, of 111 Clark Hill Road in Prospect, died Sunday in her home after a downed power line engulfed her home in flames.

“Other than the tragic loss of life … we have had no other storm related injuries in town,” Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield said. “We’re a lot better than some of our neighboring towns,” he said.

While Salem Road and Straitsville Road in Prospect flooded during the storm, once the waters receded, there was no infrastructure damage, Chatfield said.

Chatfield attributed Prospect’s relative lack of problems with the fact that CL&P has been cutting tree limbs around power lines since April.

In Naugatuck, Rubber Avenue flooded Sunday, with the bridge at the entrance of Mount View Plaza hit hard. This is the second time that area was damaged this year.

“Overall, damage was kept to a relative minimum considering what the state was telling us to brace for,” Mezzo said.

Mezzo said there were no storm-related injuries to borough residents or employees. Naugatuck opened its emergency operations center at the police department from 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday to coordinate emergency response during the brunt of the storm, Mezzo said.

“Our emergency management personnel, both Public Safety and Public Works, performed outstanding,” Mezzo said.
Mezzo commended residents as well for their patience and cooperation.

In Beacon Falls, emergency headquarters were set up at the firehouse during the storm.

Beacon Falls Public Safety Director Edgar Rodrigues said during the storm the Naugatuck River reached 14.4 feet, which is the highest level it has ever reached.

When the river reached 13 feet, Rodrigues said, the town evacuated the senior center and South Main Street towards Old Town Road and the trailer park.

Most people drove their own cars, but those without transportation were given rides in the senior center bus.
“Within half an hour, we evacuated over 140 people,” Rodrigues said.

An emergency shelter was set up at Woodland Regional High School and housed 50 to 60 people from 10:45 a.m. to about 5 p.m. when the river decreased to a sustainable level, Rodrigues said.

First Selectman Susan Cable complimented the police, town nurse, senior center, and Board of Selectmen for their response to the emergency.

“Everybody pitched in,” Cable said.

Rodrigues said the town’s response was a group effort.

“We took the initiative to preplan and have meetings weeks before to make sure we were ready to the best of our ability to service and make sure we did the best that we could for our citizens here in the town of Beacon Falls,” he said.

Aside from the Naugatuck River reaching historic levels, the town also experienced flooding in areas across town, according to Jeremy Rodorigo, deputy emergency management director. The heavy rains and runoff ripped up a portion of Blackberry Hill Road.

All in all, Rodorigo said, the town faired pretty well and no injuries were reported.

“In Beacon Falls, I think we’re very fortunate that nobody got hurt and that there was no major property damage or loss,” Rodorigo said.

Initially, crews from Connecticut Light & Power are focusing on clearing power lines and trees and brush from roads before they begin to restore power.

“They know it’s serious. It’s just a matter of safety has to come first,” said Naugatuck Mayor Robert Mezzo.

Mezzo said workers may not restore power everywhere until Wednesday or Thursday.

Mezzo cautioned residents not to touch wires of any kind, including cable and telephone wires which may become charged.

“Stay away from wires at all costs,” he said.

Some roads in Naugatuck, Prospect, and Beacon Falls are still closed due to downed wires and trees, but that list is constantly changing as crews work to remove debris.

Chatfield asked residents to help pick up brush within 10 to 15 feet of the road while being careful to avoid wires.

Mezzo urged drivers to use caution as traffic lights are out at many intersections and trees are still blocking some roads.

Besides downed power lines, the main problem in the aftermath of Irene is flooding.

Prospect recorded almost eight inches of rain, according to Chatfield.

The Naugatuck Fire Department has received almost 100 calls for basement flooding issues, according to Mezzo.

With such a long waiting list, Mezzo said the fire department is prioritizing which residents to assist first. Residents with a foot or more of water will receive help first, but others may have to wait, Mezzo said.

On Monday, Beacon Hose Co. No. 1 in Beacon Falls was busy pumping water out of cellars. Rodorigo advised residents in need of help pumping water to call the Fire Department at (203) 729-1470.

“We’ll do our best to get over there and help them,” he said.

Mezzo said the Board of Education has pushed back the first day of school to Sept. 1, with staff orientation Aug. 31. Sept. 1 will be a full day of school.

Elio Gugliotti contributed to this report.

A tree lies on a car on Terrace Avenue in Naugatuck after the storm. - RA ARCHIVE