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Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Westport Watching Hurricane Progress But Breathing Easier

Westport Watching Hurricane Progress But Breathing a Bit Easier
Westport officials watched intently today the progress of Hurricane Isabel toward the East Coast but breathed a bit easier as its path took it far from Westports shores.

First Selectwoman Diane Goss Farrell said she postponed a meeting of her emergency management team from Thursday morning to Thursday afternoon in order to get a better read of the stormҒs progress and intensity as it makes landfall.

WeӒre well prepared, she told WestportNow. ԓAt the moment we think it will be more like a tropical storm, like Floyd was a couple of years ago.

Hurricane Floyd had become a tropical storm by the time it impacted Southern New England on the night of Sept. 16, 1999. As much as seven inches of rain were reported in some Connecticut communities from the storm, along with some flooding and downed trees.

Farrell told her weekly Brown Bag luncheon today that preparing for the hurricane has been very beneficial for town employees.

“It’s advantageous for the staff to be refreshed on this,” she said. “(Parks and Recreation Dept. director) Stu McCarthy also pointed out at a staff meeting today that we have many new employees and it’s an opportunity to get them up to speed.”

Fire Chief Denis McCarthy said despite the stormԒs distance from the area, he is still concerned about the possibility of flooding.

There is a significant possibility for coastal flooding, especially as you get a shift to easterly winds and water piles up in Long Island Sound,Ӕ he told WestportNow. It could be a problem everywhere from New Jersey to Cape Cod.Ӕ

McCarthy said automated monitoring of tide levels at Compo Basin has enhanced the emergency management teams ability to precisely gauge changes in water levels in Long Island Sound.

The system was installed several years ago as part of a federal grant and also allows the fire dispatch center to tie into other nearby monitoring stations.

ғBefore we had to physically go down and watch the tide sticks, he said. ԓThat was difficult to do, especially in the dark of the night.

Not only does the system measure the waterԒs height, but it also gauges the rate of the rise and sets off alarms when it reaches a pre-set level, McCarthy said.

“It is a tool that we’ll use in making a decision to recommend evacuations,” he said. “We’re always reluctant to make that recommendation but now we’ll be able to make a decision based on timely, precise information.”

The fire official said he was pleased with planning efforts for the storm and praised the cooperation of all town departments.

WeӒve even looked at doubling the meals-on-wheels deliveries in anticipation of the storm, he said. ԓSo were down to that level of planning.Ҕ

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Posted 09/17/03 at 05:19 PM  Permalink



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