Weakened Irene still packs a punch

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Region - posted Tue., Aug. 30, 2011
Jerry Alfonso, Jr., makes sure that he has enough gas to power his generator after the inevitable power outage. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Jerry Alfonso, Jr., makes sure that he has enough gas to power his generator after the inevitable power outage. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

Although it didn’t quite live up to the near doomsday predictions, the remains of hurricane Irene swept through the area as a tropical storm early Sunday morning, Aug. 28, packing winds that reached as high as 50 mph and dumping up to 6 inches of rain in some area towns.  A far cry from the 100 mph-plus winds and 10 to 15 inches of rain that some were predicting, the storm was more than powerful enough to cause major problems throughout the state with flooding, downed trees and power outages.  

According to Connecticut Light and Power, more than 750,000 customers (more than half the state) were left without power after the storm, the center of which passed over the western side of the state. In Salem and some other area towns, including East Hampton, Griswold, Lyme and Old Lyme, every CL & P customer was left in the dark after the storm passed, and many are facing the possibility of spending a week or more before power is restored. In other towns, like Colchester, power outages were more sporadic, and many homes and businesses went on as usual.

Some, like Jerry Alfonso, Jr. of Salem, were prepared for such an eventuality. Anticipating a power outage, Alfonso was out Saturday morning filling multiple gas cans at a local gas station. “It’s all set to go.  It just needs gas,” he said of his emergency generator.  Many area gas stations had cars lined up out to the road seeking a last minute fill-up.

Area stores also saw more customers Saturday morning, looking for supplies to help tide them over through a prolonged power outage.  Bottled water was becoming short in supply, as were D-batteries, the size most commonly used in flashlights.

“People are just crazy.  They wait until the last minute and then want to get everything at once,” said one storeowner who didn’t wish to be identified.  She eventually put the batteries behind the counter and only produced some if the customer asked.

Colchester and Salem First Selectmen Greg Shuster and Kevin Lyden, respectively, kept residents of their towns apprised of the coming storm and what preparations they should be making with a series of electronic updates, which continued on into Saturday evening as the storm began to intensify.  In addition, emergency shelters were established at Bacon Academy and Montville High School for residents who needed to evacuate their homes.  In addition, area roads were closed to all except emergency vehicles beginning at midnight Saturday.

Once the storm has passed, the massive cleanup began.  As of Monday morning, numerous trees were still blocking roads, and downed power lines could be found throughout the area.  Nonetheless, as early as Sunday afternoon, and despite the still strong winds, some Salem residents were already out with their chainsaws, clearing a large tree from their roof after it had been taken down by the wind.  Fortunately, damage, in this case, was minimal.  Another house just down the road suffered a breached roof, as a large tree trunk made a direct hit.  And still others out walking around after the storm had passed could only look at the damage caused by the remains of Irene and be thankful that they were at least safe, if still in the dark.


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