Sunday, October 28, 2012
Sirens Sounded to Evacuate, Schools Closed
Emergency sirens sounded in Westport’s shoreline areas today with announcements urging immediate evacuation in advance of Hurricane Sandy.
Westport EMS personnel went from door to door today in shoreline areas urging evacuation. A crew talks to a resident on Bradley Street. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Schools were closed and preparations were made to close off access to Compo Beach, Longshore, Old Mill and Saugatuck Shores Monday morning.
The extraordinary measures were announced following a late morning briefing Fire Chief Andrew Kingsbury and First Selectman Gordon Joseloff had with all town department heads, an announcement said.
“The mood during the meeting was tense as federal officials estimated a 13-foot storm surge for Westport -– 3 or 4 feet higher that the inundation from Storm Irene last year,” a news release said.
“This is an unprecedented storm,” said Joseloff, following his team’s briefing with federal and state disaster preparedness officials. “This will be a storm of long duration, high winds and record-setting flooding. Take Storm Irene from last year and double it.” he said.
All Westport Schools will be closed Monday and Tuesday with all after school activities suspended as well, the announcement said.
All town beaches and marinas will be closed until further notice beginning at sunset today.
There will be no public or vehicle access to the waterfront neighborhoods of Old Mill, Compo Beach, and the Saugatuck Shores beginning at 8 am Monday, the announcement said.
Residents in these low-lying areas were jolted by blasts from the town’s warning sirens this morning, directing them to start an immediate evacuation. Public Safety crews were going door-to-door to warn residents to pack-up and leave before the wind and rains start.
The town’s storm shelter at Long Lots School, 13 Hyde Lane, will open at 3 p.m. today. Residents planning to going to shelter were reminded to bring a change of clothes, bedding and pillows, any special medications or dietary items, and a working flashlight with extra batteries.
The Westport storm shelter will accept pets as long as they are in a travel cage. People bring their pets should also bring enough pet food for three days, necessary pet medications and a leash. Pets will be secured in a safe room at the shelter, but are not allowed to remain with their owners.
Speaking following the morning briefing, Kingsbury said “the preparation window is closing rapidly. People need to use the remaining time to move their cars, secure their properties, and lay in an adequate supply of food and water—at least three days’ worth. And fair warning here, we expect the entire town to lose power, with restoration maybe taking a week or more.”
Officials said flooding this time will be deeper and longer than past storms because of the full moon Monday night, and because this storm is a slow mover. The town is bracing for at least three waves of flooding, beginning with the high tide at midnight Sunday, the announcement said.
Westport public works has sand and bags available for all residents at the town garage on the Sherwood Island Connector, and has been quickly building a sand berm along the entire Compo Beach to offer that neighborhood some protection from the estimated 15-foot wind-driven waves that are expected on top of the storm surge.
“If anyone doesn’t know what to do, they need to go to town’s web site, www.westportct.gov, immediately to learn what preparations are necessary.” Joseloff said.
“And listen to the town’s radio station, WWPT-FM at 90.3 on the dial. We will be updating information there frequently throughout the storm. “
He also asked residents to stay off the roads. “Do not go out sightseeing during the storm,” Joseloff said. “The roads will be dangerous with wires and branches down. Only emergency vehicles and public safety personnel should be on the road during the storm. And frankly after the forecast I heard this morning, I’m very worried about them too.”