Storm stories - a collection spawned by Irene

By Denise Coffey - Staff Writer
Region - posted Tue., Sep. 6, 2011
Brendan and Diane Haven pull towel duty at Brooklyn Middle School. Photos by D. Coffey.
Brendan and Diane Haven pull towel duty at Brooklyn Middle School. Photos by D. Coffey.

The aftermath of tropical storm Irene affected local residents harder than it did in some other regions of Connecticut. School openings were delayed and businesses and residents tried to keep their lives as normal as possible, despite power outages that lasted well past most people’s patience. What follows are a few examples of how the community coped.


School open, but not for class:

Rather than hosting students in their first week of classes last week following tropical storm Irene, Brooklyn Middle School put out a welcome mat for residents wanting to take hot showers. Thirty-five percent of Brooklyn's CL&P customers were still without power on Aug. 31, so the town offered up the school's showers to anyone with a bar of soap and a towel.

Diane Haven stood by the gymnasium door on Aug. 31, in case someone came looking for the shower facilities. School personnel were taking two-hour shifts to help out with the unusual arrangement. Not many residents had taken advantage of the showers, but those who did were grateful.

Haven's son Brendan brought some toys to the school, so his mother wouldn't be alone. He threw a basketball around, its bounce echoing through the empty gym.

Outside, another sign indicated where people could fill up containers with water. A spigot on the front of the building had been made available, and a woman in a car had pulled up beside it.

For people with private wells, the power outage meant unpleasant difficulties with toilets, among other things. Thankfully, towns throughout Windham County provided for people in need.

Killingly High School opened its doors for people seeking showers, as did Plainfield High School and Woodstock Academy. Running water was made available at town halls and highway departments. A radiator shop in Woodstock opened its faucets for people. WINY broadcast updates and changes to shower and water facilities, as the days turned into one very long week.


Making the most of a bad thing:

Hank's Restaurant on Route 6 in Brooklyn was one of the lucky ones. Its power was restored early, on Tuesday, Aug. 30. A sign beckoned to drivers passing by: “Open with limited menu. Full Bar. $5 Hurricanes.”

The tropical drink offered in honor of the tropical storm that decimated power lines in Windham County was a mixture of light and dark rum, amaretto, apricot brandy, grenadine, orange and pineapple juice. It promised to lighten the miseries of a darkened Quiet Corner.


NDDH made powerless by theft:

The Northeastern District Department of Health was left powerless, after thieves stole a back-up generator from the agency. With warnings for some residents to boil water, it would have been helpful to have their assistance.


Water and MREs:

Killingly Recreation Director Tom Dooley and his staff set up a makeshift canteen at the Killingly Garage last week. They were giving out MREs and water to town residents who needed them. Each day, the Rec. Center's Tracy Wood waited for a call from the National Guard in Hartford to tell her when the supplies could be picked up. FritoLay and United Natural Foods in Dayville also donated snack items for town residents.


Milking disaster avoided at Fairvue Farms:

Thank goodness power stayed on at Fairvue Farms in Woodstock. Owners Paul and Diane Miller have a back-up generator, but they didn't have to use it. Fairvue has 1,600 cattle of all ages, according to Diane. They have 800 milking cows that are milked three times a day. Forty cows are milked at a time, and the process takes about 10 minutes per cow. A dairy farmer's schedule is determined by this constant need.

If they were to lose power, feeding, watering and milking would require super-human efforts. Milking machines would have to be reset. Food and water would have to be hauled. With each cow eating about 120 pounds of feed and drinking a bathtub full of water a day, Diane shook her head. “We couldn't do it,” she said.

Neither could the cows.

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