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Town Report: Old Saybrook cottages in bad shape after trashing by Irene

Published August 30. 2011 4:00AM   Updated August 31. 2011 4:48AM
Abigail Pheiffer/The Day
Pfc. William Nash, right, of the 250th Multi-Role Bridge Company of the Connecticut National Guard, cuts into the trunk of a tree as the company clears it from Route 161 near the intersection with Drabik Road in East Lyme on Monday. Sgt. Gilles Clavet, left, gives hand signals to a heavy machinery operator. The tree, which took down electrical lines and a utility pole, fell due to the wind and rain of Tropical Storm Irene and blocked Route 161. The National Guard company, based in New London, worked with crews from Connecticut Light & Power and the Town of East Lyme Public Works to remove the tree that was tangled in the electrical lines.
Towns across region launch cleanup efforts

Some of the worst damage during Tropical Storm Irene occurred at the Chalker Beach neighborhood in Old Saybrook.

The neighborhood, a collection of about 250 rental and family-owned cottages on Beach Road East and West under the Chalker Beach Association, is located on Long Island Sound, just to the west of the mouth of the Connecticut River.

Don Lucas, the town building inspector, said Monday that eight seasonal cottages were found to be "unfit for occupation" until substantial repairs are made. Four cottages had damage to the foundation and severe soil erosion underneath support pilings. The other four "had their entire south wall demolished by incoming waves.

"It was like a surgical cut," Lucas said. "It was like looking into doll houses."

He said he spoke to several of the owners and accepted that "that's the price they have to pay for being on the water." The cottages, all about 60 years old, had been evacuated before Tropical Storm Irene hit the region early Sunday.

Downed trees, wires

Other towns throughout the region were also busy Monday with a variety of problems. In New London, power was restored by afternoon to all New London Housing Authority properties except the Thames River high-rise apartments on Crystal Avenue.

Susan Shontell, executive director of the housing authority, said she was told that a transformer nearby caught fire, which means it may take longer to restore power to the high-rises than to other areas.

Like all of the city's 433 public housing units, the three high-rises have backup generators that run the elevators and emergency lights and provide power to common areas.

The housing authority opened up the food pantry to provide residents with nonperishable items and foods that can be cooked in the community rooms, Shontell said.

Meanwhile, New London's city water and sewer pump stations both lost power during the storm, but there was no interruption in service. Water customers are asked to continue to limit water use because the water filtration and pumping systems at the Lake Konomoc reservoir in Waterford are still running off generator power, according to Barry Weiner, chairman of the Water and Water Pollution Control Authority.

Power has since been restored to most of the sewer pump stations, Weiner said.

Road travel tricky

In East Lyme, about 40 roads had some sort of impasse or were closed as of Monday afternoon. The town still plans to hold a referendum on the planned purchase of Darrow Pond Thursday, said East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica.

Earlier Monday, the town moved the regional emergency shelter from East Lyme Middle School to the Community Center for residents of East Lyme, Lyme, Old Lyme and Waterford.

Power outlets at Town Hall are available if people need to charge cellphones or computers, Formica said.

In Groton City, parts of Tyler Avenue and Chestnut Hill were closed with downed utility poles, said Mayor Marian Galbraith. There was a broken railing and damage to a seawall on Thames Street at the Costa Property. A dock was also lost, Galbraith said.

"This was much more severe than it was for Hurricane Gloria," Joe Sastre, Groton Town's emergency management director, said.

Monday evening, Groton and the Red Cross opened a respite shelter at the Groton Senior Center with showers and hot meals for people without power.

The Ledyard Town Hall was on Monday running on an old military diesel generator, but it only had enough power to supply one room with enough electricity to get the town payroll out.

Mayor Fred B. Allyn Jr. said that he planned to keep Town Hall closed until Wednesday.

He advised residents against trying to cut down trees laying on top of wires themselves.

"This is no time to press your luck. We were fortunate that no one got hurt, and we'd like to keep it that way," he said.

As of late Monday afternoon, Gallivan Lane in Montville was still blocked on two ends by power lines and downed trees, according to resident Carlos Sanchez. Sanchez said he was worried for the residents of that street.

"Everybody is driving underneath the power lines trying to get in and out," he said.

Montville road crews were working to clear Raymond Hill Road and Kitemaug Road. Route 163 had various downed trees, and Route 82 near the Bozrah town line was also blocked.

In Old Lyme, the Lymes' Senior Center was open for hot meals and bathrooms. Residents can collect potable water at the town's three firehouses.

Town officials were as of Monday afternoon still working to find a place to offer showers to residents without power, said Emergency Management Director David Roberge.

Old Saybrook opened up public showers at Old Saybrook High School for residents Monday afternoon. Potable water was available for collection at the firehouse and police station.

Power restored slowly

As of Monday night, Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek said utility crews had restored power to a few areas of town, including the traffic light at Route 1 and Flanders Road.

Stonington Emergency Preparedness Director George Brennan said the storm drove a hole through the east breakwater that protects Stonington Harbor. The Army Corps of Engineers, which has jurisdiction over the breakwater, will be notified.

Brennan said fire chiefs in town reported no major flooding problems. Four boats have been reported to have run aground in Stonington Harbor and Wamphassuc Point.

In Stonington Borough, the public walkway behind Stonington Commons was washed away. The parking lot at Stonington Point, where much of Dubois Beach had eroded away, was still closed Monday.

Residents who need to plug in medical equipment can drop by the emergency operations center at the Stonington police station.

Staff writers Judy Benson, Jenna Cho, Stephen Chupaska, Julianne Hanckel, Chuck Potter and Joe Wojtas contributed to this report.

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