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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ready to Fight Sandy with Sand

By James Lomuscio

The rasp of shovels going into damp sand was continuous today as Westporters filled white, plastic weave bags, lowering the sand hill the Public Works Department had piled at its site off the Sherwood Island Connector.

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A bulldozer moves sand at Westport’s Compo Beach today.  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) James Lomuscio for WestportNow.com

In the background, a pay loader with another heaping helping of sand waited while men and women kept digging and filling bags provided by the town.

“You’re only allowed 20 bags at a time,” said Victor DaSilva.

DaSilva and his co-workers were making sandbags for a client, a woman who lives on Beachside Avenue.

“She needs at least 60 bags, so we’ll have to come back tomorow,” DaSilva said. “I hear it is going to be the perfect storm, like the movie.”

DaSilva said that earlier in the day cars stretched all the way down the Connector to get into the Public Works site.

“They must have gone though about 1,000 bags today,” he said. Public Works officials said 4,000 bags were distributed by mid-day today.

Nearby, pickup trucks and SUVs were weighed down, and men and women kept digging and filling. A familiar face in the crowd was Harvey Skolnick, who has owned the Liquor Locker in town for 45 years.

Last year Skolnick’s Main Street suffered water damage from Tropical Storm Irene. This time he was not leaving anything to chance, even though he has since relocated to the Compo Shopping Center.

“I’m filling bags for the store,” he said.

Attempts to fight Hurricane Sandy with sand as the 1,000-mile-wide storm heads up the East Coast with a scheduled landfall Tuesday morning was evidenced at Compo Beach. There, Kowalsky Bros. had commenced building a 10-foot high continual sand berm from the cannons all the way to the eastern breakwater.

“They’d rather save the sand than have it washed out,” said Tom Kowalsky.

As he spoke, one of his bulldozers scraped the beach from the water’s edge, scooping up sand and gravel to create the berm.

“Once it washes out, they can’t go below the high-tide mark to retrieve the sand because of the EPA,” Kowalsky explained.

Before long, he unleashed another bulldozer to help speed up the fashioning a sand wall buffer against expected crashing waves and exceedingly high tides.

“Last year this whole parking lot was completely covered with sand,” said Carol Boas of Wilton.

As two Caterpillar bulldozers continued to grind along the beach, climbing the hills they made to dump more sand on top, Westporter Brooks Sumberg, a 25-year town resident, shook his head.

“I think they overreact,” he said. “That’s what I think. And the news over hypes the storm.”

Down at Joey’s by the Shore, the beach’s restaurant concession that remains open up until the Wednesday after Thanksgiving, trash bags filled with beach sand had been piled by the door.

“Alex filled them this morning,” owner Joey Romeo said of one of his workers. “Tomorrow we’ll be closing early and placing them in front of the door.

“We’re planning for the worst, and hoping for the best,” he said.

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Posted 10/27/12 at 08:55 PM



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