Town picks itself up from Sandy's wreck
The devastation from Hurricane Sandy last week was widespread. Fallen trees were everywhere. On homes, on roads, in yards.
After the storm, 117 roads were totally blocked, and town outages peaked at about 6,100, or 83%, on Wednesday, Oct. 31. There were more than 1,000 issues with power lines and trees.
Wiltonians could do nothing but cope.
"We lost power for the whole week and just got it back Sunday around noon," said Wilton High School student Ramamurthy Siripuram.
The day after the storm rolled through, he and his family moved out of town to a cousin's house. Many of his friends also moved to hotels for electricity.
"A lot of colleges extended the application deadlines, so my friends were able to send in their applications without worrying too much," he said.
Wiltonian John Thomas, who lives just off Danbury Road near the Wilton Historical Society, said he also lost power but it was not terribly inconvenient for his family.
"We just stocked up on food and made sure to have the bathtub filled with water," he said.
Miller-Driscoll School, equipped with a backup generator, was host to families without power as the town's official emergency shelter, and was open for eight nights, ending on Monday, Nov. 5. CERT volunteers manned the shelter under the guidance of Cathy Pierce, Wilton's Social Services director.
CERT personnel also assisted in distributing drinking water to Wilton residents at the town fire department, and helped assist in traffic control at the Nov. 4 residential structure fire on Silver Spring Road.
Wilton Library saw a boom in patrons as residents throughout town sought power and Internet connections.
"We saw 10,303 customers from Tuesday, Oct. 30, when we were unofficially open," said Janet Crystal of Wilton Library.
"That makes roughly 1,700 people a day, which is practically twice what we usually see in a day," she said. "During that time, we ran 10 kid's movies for extra programming; over the weekend, we were able to set up a monitor and broadcast Channel 12 in the gallery for patrons who were starved for visual news."
There was an all-night crew running servers at the library to keep things running.
"We actually carried on with some programming that was already scheduled, much to the thanks of patrons who were starved for something to do," Ms. Crystal said.
The Wilton Family YMCA also had power, and Bob McDowell, executive director, said the community actively patronized the facility in days following the storm.
"Once again the Wilton Family YMCA was blessed with power," he said.
"During Irene and the October snowstorm of 2011, we served just over 1,500 non-YMCA members of our community by providing hot showers, warmth, Wi-Fi, bulk water, free coffee and tea, power for re-charging cell phones and other electronic devices at no cost.
"Some stopped by for a workout in the Wellness Center or a swim with their family," he said.
Hurricane Sandy yielded more than 4,000 visits from non-members, according to Mr. McDowell.
"Members — babies through senior citizens — were able to take advantage of the Wilton Family Y, whose mission is to "strengthen the foundation of our community by promoting youth development, healthy living and social responsibility," he said. "The social responsibility aspect of our mission has really shown through during these trying times."
Fire Chief Paul Milositz said town officials' primary focus is power restoration.
By 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 7, there were still 79 Connecticut Light & Power customers without power, and First Selectman Bill Brennan issued an emergency message that said all remaining customers so affected should expect to have power restored by the end of the day.
All messages the town has received regarding storm damage and outages from citizens have been forwarded to CL&P, according to Mr. Brennan.
In the days ahead, town officials will be examining a possible location where residents may bring debris. The state will not pick up debris left on the side of state roads as it has done in the past. The town will also not collect debris from residents as it did last year. Mr. Brennan said the resources to do so are not available.
Residents may burn brush — not leaves — and burn permits will be issued and fees will be waived, although residents are cautioned to closely follow safety rules. Permits may be requested at the firehouse on Route 7 during normal business hours.
"I think we improved on our emergency communication both internally and externally," Chief Milositz said.
"We understand the high level of frustration with people not getting power restored as quickly as they should. We've been trying to do as much communication as possible."
Department of Public Works employees were at full-staff 12 hours a day, and police and fire personnel were up-staffed, according to Chief Milositz.
"There was no holding back — when the work needed to be done we pulled out all the stops," he said.
Residents who sustained damage from Hurricane Sandy are encouraged to call 1-800-621-FEMA (3862) to register for possible financial assistance.