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Stevenson: It's Safety First in Storm Recovery

The town's top priority is getting all streets accessible to fire engines and ambulances; since only so many utility crews are working in town, some town workers have cleared playgrounds and fields so kids have safe places to play, First Selectman

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson gave two briefings to Darien residents Friday evening—in a telephone message and in person to residents at a meeting in Darien Library—but the messsage was essentially the same:

Safety for work crews, town residents and children comes first; convenience for residents is a lower priority.

With almost half the town still without power, three days after the storm, Stevenson said she realizes people are annoyed, but Connecticut Light & Power is predicting that it will take until Monday or Tuesday to get 95 percent of Connecticut and Darien re-electrified.

Currently there are 14 public roads and 15 private roads not accessible to ambulances or fire engines, Stevenson said.

Making them accessible, she said, "is my highest priority."

With drivers from New York and New Jersey coming to Connecticut to find gasoline for their cars and electricity generators, town gas stations are seeing long lines and are sometimes running out of gasoline. Stevenson said people need to be patient and avoid one-on-one conflicts. Police will be monitoring stations, she said, in part to respond to potential "civil unrest"—fighting between more than two people.

Gas stations with power should be able to provide gas as soon as deliveries are made, and deliveries are being made, so no one should worry about a gas shortage in the long term, Stevenson said.

Keeping children safe

It remains important to keep children off of roads where live wires may be down, she said. The playground at Weed Beach has been cleared and is available for younger children, and some soccer fields are available for kids to play on, she said.

When a resident questioned why public works crews were cutting grass at a soccer field when trees still needed to be removed, Stevenson said crews are removing trees that block roads where there are no dangerous power cables, but roads blocked by trees with possibly live wires mixed in must wait for the limited number of electric utility crews.

State roads are an additional complication, she said—the town is forbidden from removing trees on Hoyt Street and Mansfield Avenue, along with the Post Road, which the state maintains. At certain points this week, residents simply had to wait for the state to handle road clearance. The town's state routes are now all passable, she said.

The dark side of Downtown

The part of Downtown Darien still without power—roughly between the railroad underpass on Route 1, the I-95 overpass of Route 1 and Leroy Avenue—has been a particularly difficult spot for CL&P to restore power, Stevenson said.

According to CL&P, she said, Storm Sandy severely damaged a power line that forms a significant "backbone" bringing power into that area. Stevenson said utility officials told her they're trying to make a temporary fix with some new equipment, and they hope to get that area, which contains many of the town's businesses, back online by Saturday.

Stevenson also made these points at the meeting, in her message or in both:

  • Town officials know of 25 homes damaged by the storm, two of which are uninhabitable. If any homeowner believes his or her damaged home hasn't been reported the homeowner can email information to darieneoc@darienct.gov. (The Federal Emergency Management Office has set up disaster relief centers in Greenwich and Bridgeport to help homeowners and business owners with getting assistance from the federal government.)
  • The town's emergency shelter at Darien High School held a maximum of 75 people on one night, but less on other nights, and by Thursday night there was no further demand for it, so the shelter was closed, Stevenson said. There are regional shelters that any Darien resident can go to at Brien McMahon High School in Norwalk and at Stamford High School, she said.
  • Town social services employees can help elderly, sick or otherwise vulnerable people during the town's recovery period, Stevenson said. Now that nighttime temperatures have been going down before electricity has been restored, blankets and warm clothing is available for those vulnerable people, she said.
  • Although Town Hall has been open, Stevenson said, electricity still hasn't been restored to it, or to some schools.
  • Whether or not the schools have electricity, they can and will still serve as polling places on Tuesday, she said. (Sometime between noon and 1 p.m. Sunday, Superintendent of Schools Stephen Falcone will announce whether schools will reopen on Monday, and much of that decision will depend on whether students can get to school safely through the streets.)
  • In addition to electricity service, cable service has also been out for many town residents. Stevenson said that Cablevision officials have told her they are largely dependent on CL&P restoration of lines before cable lines can be reconnected.
  • CL&P can now provide individual homeowners with estimated resumption of service dates. More information on that is on the CL&P website, she said.
  • Darien residents, with or without a dump sticker, can use the transfer station on Saturday and Sunday, Stevenson said. The transfer station will accept only storm debris between its regular closing time of 2:45 p.m. and 5 p.m. and only from residents, not commercial haulers. Commercial haulers can go to City Carting in Stamford, she said.
  • Asked why police weren't stationed at particularly difficult intersections where traffic lights are not now working, such as the intersection of Ledge Road and the Post Road, Stevenson said, "Sometimes a patrolman isn't as effective [directing trafffic] as you'd think they might be."
  • Stevenson said it would be helpful if people cut back on their regular Saturday shopping routines, which might put less of a strain on intersections, gas stations and some stores. Local restaurants, especially the ones that have been closed downtown due to lack of power in recent days, might especially welcome some patronage when they reopen, she suggested in an interview after the meeting.
  • Some people have complained that they've seen utility crews resting or drinking coffee, Stevenson said. Those crews should be resting at certain points, she said, because they've been doing difficult, exhausting, long and dangerous work.

Text of recorded message to town residents

Here's the text of Stevenson's reverse 911 "Code Red" recorded telephone message to town residents Friday evening:

"On day three post Hurricane Sandy, we have 50 percent of the Town of Darien without power.  Power restoration continues to be steady as we clear blocked roads and clear trees from roadways and wires.  Emergency access remains my highest priority but restoration efforts are fully operational as we finish our “make safe” efforts.  As they become available, Darien will be receiving more CL&P resources.

"CL&P and the Department of Public Works are working around the clock.  Restoration estimates for the town stands at 95 percent by Tuesday.  Individual restoration times can be found by logging into the CL&P web site at www.cl-p.com and following the prompts on the Storm Center link. 

"Please register your cell phones to CodeRed by logging into the Town of Darien web site at www.darienct.gov.  If you need assistance to register, Darien Library staff can help.

"Please continue to use 911 for only emergency calls.  Calls to the routine line should be for public safety concerns and questions—not power restoration estimates.

"The transfer station is open tomorrow until 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. to Darien residents with our without permits for debris disposal in non-commercial vehicles.

"Gas stations have been overwhelmed by customers and some stations have no gas.  Police personnel will be monitoring gas stations and traffic on local roads.

"Please be sure generators are properly vented and carbon monoxide sensors are functioning.  Never attempt to clear trees or debris from power lines even if they appear de-energized. 

"My highest priority is the safety of all our residents and the safety of emergency responders, public works personnel and utility workers. 

"I ask for your continued patience. 

"Thank you."

Editor's note: By 11:48 p.m., this article was updated throughout.

Fred Hebert November 03, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Curious that there is no mention of how many cl&p crews are working in town and how many of them are involved in road clearing duties and number involved in power restoration. What are exactly the town's responsibi Ity in removing downed trees from private roads. How many homes are " at risk"on the closed public and private roads? Given the dropping temperatures, gasoline shortages in town impacting operation of generators and a possible new storm on Weds would seem to make sense to allocate more of the available resources to power restoration. Jayme's updates are short on material details.

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