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Friday, November 30, 2012

Still Uninhabitable a Month Later

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By James Lomuscio

Today marks one month since Storm Sandy roared with a vengeance into Westport, wreaking havoc the town has not seen since the fabled Hurricane of 1938. Image
Contractor Kevin Leigland at a Saugatuck Shores home a month after Storm Sandy wreaked havoc on the island. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for

For some, a month’s passing was just enough time to rebound. Rob Reeves, CEO of the Westport Weston Family Y on Church Lane, annnounced tonight that the facility will finally reopen Friday. The Y had sustained more than $500,000 in damage when floodwaters filled its basement, bringing its electrical and mechanical systems to a grinding halt.

Some downtown businesses will need more time to recover as evidenced by still shuttered Chico’s and the Banana Republic on Main Street.

But for those whom Sandy hit hard where they live, the 31 homes deemed uninhabitable, the recovery will take longer. From Compo Beach to Compo Mill Cove to Saugatuck Island, major restorations are required. Numerous homes will be demolished.

General contractor Kevin Leigland is currently restoring two adjacent, waterfront homes at 12 and 14 Cockenoe Drive in Saugatuck Shores. Both properties took took a wave hit that destroyed No. 12’s waterfront sunroom. The wave blew out the wall facing the water and pulled up the floor.

Pounding waves were so powerful, he noted, that they actually toppled half of the boulders on the jetty in front of 14.

“This is actually the highest point on the island,” Leigland said. “And it was the first house on the island.”

He said the house’s location resulted in its interior receiving less that a foot of water while lower situated houses suffered several feet of flooding.

“He (the owner) was okay until the wave hit,” said Leigland. “Every step here was covered with shards of glass.”

The kitchen cabinets were damaged, too, and now sit on their sides on the sand swept outside walkway.

The home’s upstairs, Leigland noted, was spared, as was the oil burner on the upper level of an adjacent, converted, one-car garage.

At 107 Harbor Road located over the newly reopened Saugatuck Island bridge, carpenter Carlos Mendez pointed out all of the fresh cedar clapboard he had placed on the first floor facing the water.

“It’s all new,” he said

Outside a backhoe was digging up a strip of soil in front of a waterfront retaining wall.

“They’re going to fill it with gravel,” he said so that any water would percolate down instead of inside..

Stepping indoors, he showed how all the first floor doors had been replaced, “the windows, the Sheetrock.”  Most of the studs were still exposed now that the water logged wallboard had been ripped out.

“This was the second time,” he said, referring to last year’s Storm Irene. “Only this was worse.”

Elizabeth Mendez, no relation to the carpenter, is the housekeeper who said she has worked for homeowner Elizabeth Milwe’s family for 19 years.

“The water was all in here,” she said showing damaged kitchen cabinets.

She held her hand about three-and-a-half feet high.

Wide sheets of plywood now cover where picture windows had been.

Except for an antique wooden table up on blocks, all of the rooms are empty. What remains of the tiled floors are streaked with salt.

What happened a month ago will be remembered for generations, a storm residents hope will remain a storm of the century.

Posted 11/30/12 at 03:09 AM


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