Goodbye, Irene

The winds blew.  The rains came.  The waters surged.

Irene was bad.  Maybe not as bad as some feared — but perhaps worse than those who pooh-pooh every official warning expected.

Damage around town is considerable — but not catastrophic.  Initial impressions — correct me if I’m wrong — are that the March 2010 windstorm downed more trees, closed more roads, and crushed more cars and houses.

The rain — about 6 to 7 inches, according to reports — was not as overwhelming as the 5 days of predictions warned it would be.  The ground is soaking up much of it.  Rainwater did not flow freely into homes.

The big problem, as we kept hearing, would be the “storm surge.”  And it was.  Beach areas got exactly what beach areas get during hurricanes:  water over seawalls, coursing down streets and — yes — into homes.

The Saugatuck overflowed.  Irene swept everything upstream, just as high tide came.  Main Street is partially submerged.  So is the area behind Klaff’s.  Around noon — well after high tide — there was barely any space between the top of the river and the underside of the Post Road bridge.

Cleanup will take a while.  Having weathered (ho ho) the windstorm, last winter’s rains, and a mini-tornado or two that I can’t pinpoint exactly, we’re used to it.  Hiring laborers and buying new stuff — from chainsaws to furniture — will give our anemic economy an unexpected jolt.

A few lessons learned from Hurricane Irene:

  • I never knew where sandbags came from.  They always just appeared in news stories about natural disasters.  Now I know:  You fill them up, on your own, at the transfer station.
  • I also never knew about the fill-up-the-bathtub idea.  I didn’t do it, but it’s good to know.
  • Don’t forget to put batteries our battery-powered radio.  I never listen to NewsRadio 88 — but today it’s repetitiveness was reassuring.
  • Westport’s town government did a fantastic job — in the days leading up to Irene, and right through now.  Preparations were made; announcements went out in timely fashions; no one could have been surprised by what happened.
  • Throughout the storm, communications continued.  There was a no-nonsense tone, leavened with a smart balance of we’re-here-to-help and don’t-do-anything-stupid.  It’s easy to bash town officials — but this was government at its best.
  • And how about the number of times we said “Be safe,” “I’m thinking of you” and “Call me if you need anything” to each other over the past 2 days.  That’s got a nice ring to it.  We should say it more often.
  • Even when the sun shines.

2 responses to “Goodbye, Irene

  1. The town’s twitter post were informative and helpful.

  2. Answer to the Westport Long Lot’s Emergency Shelter food question:
    Under the direction of the Town of Westport and WPS Nancy Harris, the food for the shelter with guests from ages 2 to 89, came via Chartwell’s, the Westport Public School vendor and it was Delicious! Dinner of Tomato soup & grilled ham & cheese or just cheese, fruit, homemade chocolate chip cookies, never ending coffee, tea, hot chocolate, snacks and bottled water by the cases. For breakfast the guests, staff and volunteers awoke to bacon, egg & cheese sandwiches, yogurt, fruit, bagels and more followed by a lunch of mac & cheese, broccoli with or without cheese sauce and chicken nuggets. Each guest received a boxed lunch when they left the shelter in anticipation that they might not have power, but a least they would have a meal. Food service could not have occurred without the tremendous help of Chartwell’s staff of Amy Gilberti, Lynn Sullivan and Lucy Ochoa who each left their own homes to help the Westport residents.