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.