In Wake of Irene: Communities Band Together to Assist Those in Need

Volunteers, town officials and others come together to assist storm victims during the area's recovery effort.

When Tropical Storm Irene hit the Connecticut coastline early last Sunday morning, the state braced itself for the worst. And residents in communities throughout the area stepped forward to give their best.

Throughout the region, private citizens, public officials, town employees and neighbors banded together to protect one another during the tropical tempest.

And then, those same communities came together again after the skies cleared, to begin the long and arduous task of cleaning up storm-related debris, as well as weather a second emergency situation left in the storm's wake: tens of thousands of homes and businesses without power for days.

In Hamden, volunteers with the town's Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, ran distribution centers that handed out bottled water and food — including military MREs or "meals ready-to-eat" —  to residents there, many of whom still without power as of Saturday afternoon.

Local town governments also have gone the extra mile in ensuring the health and welfare of their residents. In Branford, one of the hardest hit shoreline communities, town officials distributed fresh water and batteries to its residents most in need, including many struggling seniors.

Stratford also organized for its residents access to bottled water, ice, potable water, and a charging station at the Oronoque Fire Station.

North Haven town officials organized and/or put together a list of much-needed services for its power-deprived residents, including hot showers, fresh water and free internet and WiFi.

And in Cheshire early next week, the town's Public Works Department plans to go the extra mile — literally. Crews there will be going curbside, from house to house, picking up tree limbs and other wooden debris to help residents clean up after the storm.

North Branford Public Works said it plans to do the same, requesting residents pile up the brush and wood along the curb to allow town crews to help homeowners clear away the storm debris.

Town libraries also rose to the challenge. Like many others throughout the state, the Hagaman Memorial Library in East Haven not only provided free computer and wireless internet access to area residents without power — some from towns as far away as Westport — but also an opportunity to recharge cell phones, laptop computers and other battery-run electronic devices.

In Orange, CERT volunteers were on hand at the town's emergency shelter to assist residents before, during and after the storm. This earned the team members some much-deserved praise from the town's first selecman.

The region's religious communities also stepped forward to help. In Milford, Beth-El Center's soup kitchen opened their pantry doors to storm victims who were just looking for a hot meal during power restoration efforts. Although the program is open year round, volunteers said they served lunch and dinner to several residents who were without electricity this week.

Even the area's animals received special attention in the storm's aftermath. One business owner in the town of Bethany donated an entire tanker truck of fresh water to allow local animal owners there to replenish their supplies after several days of post-Irene power problems led to many reaching the bottom of their water reserves.

Paola DiMeglio September 06, 2011 at 05:42 PM
All sound great but on behalf of the residents in Milford - MANY did not know about the programs, we received automated phone alerts from the mayor but due to lack of power for a week you never knew about the programs. No one came to our home and it took hours to find out who to contact for emergency information - I called the state DEHMS department and was given the wrong contacts about 5 times and also was told there would be no help to residents who were hit by the storm due to the lack of the President declaring a state of disaster. Finally when I did find the Emergency Management Director contact it went to the fire department and was told I had the wrong number. Tried again and got the correct Emergency Management contact. If I was persistent I would have just not gotten any information. A better system needs to be in place, we had many storms in the past and will in the future unfortunately and this wasn't setup very well at all.
John Pasnau September 06, 2011 at 08:31 PM
Paola, I gave the city both cell and home phone #'s so I did get the calls. And they did tell us about all the services or where to go to learn more in those calls. You don't really expect the city to send people door to door, do you? Give them your cell #. If you don't have one, get one. That is how YOU prepare for the next inevitable emergency weather situation.
Paola DiMeglio September 07, 2011 at 04:52 PM
Thanks for tip John - I did give them my cell and home phone, I never received responses on either so a hiccup in that regard but due to the lack of electricity they may have tried contacting us over our home phone. My neighbors weren't aware of even an evacuation due to loss of power as well. I live in Point Pond area of Milford - one of the hardest hit. I don't expect going door to door - no but MANY in my neighborhood who were hit hard did not know about these services offered so you have to admit there is a lack of communication. We live one block away from a fire station and we also have an emergency polls with intercoms outside and no information was announced until a week later that we may get power restored. I am not expecting people to bend over backwards and these programs all sound great but many were not informed so many could not utilize these programs - if a better system was in place we would benefit from it. Hopefully we won't have to experience this again but just sharing my experience.
Paola DiMeglio September 07, 2011 at 04:54 PM
And thanks for the side comment of how I should prepare for the next storm, hopefully you made it out okay on your end - we weren't as lucky but next storm I hope people like you will be around with that same caring response.
SolarPete September 07, 2011 at 05:30 PM
If this is directed towards me I do not live in your area, but I deal with hurricanes every year and we have lots of info with photos on what to do to your home, yard etc. I have updated my 1923 home to with stand up to a cat 2 but if my neighbors house goes it can hit mine. Simple little things everyone can do will make your home safer I do have web sites i can pass along to you if u r interested. P


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