Published October 29. 2012 11:00AM Updated October 29. 2012 5:13PM
Surf pounding Old Lyme beaches
Where there is weather, there are weather watchers.
Several people gathered at the end of Hartford Avenue in Old Lyme this morning to sip coffee and watch the storm come in to Sound View Beach. The surf was already churning, but had not yet breached the high tide mark.
"This isn't it yet," said Paul Gasperini, who lives at the top of Gorton Avenue. "Hawks Nest (beach) is already getting pounded. Gasperini was looking west, where the waves appeared to have already breached the sea wall.
Gasperini said he lived in Florida for 20 years before coming to Connecticut.
"My wife came up here because she wanted to get away from hurricanes," he said.
Mystic inundated with water
Monday morning's high tide inundated parts of downtown Mystic, flooding the public parking area and portions of the riverside docks and streets along the Mystic River.
Downtown shops, sand bags stacked at their entrances, were closed and the Mystic River was creeping precariously close to the drawbridge.
Outside the Tradewinds Gallery on West Main Street, John Sarpu made some last minute preparations, covering the glass entrance with plywood. Sarpu works for Jerome Properties, which owns several downtown buildings.
He said awnings have been cranked in, signs removed and along with plywood and sandbags he is using silicone to fill in some of the cracks where water can seep into the shops.
"We're basically doing as much as we can," Sarpu said. "Hopefully if the water comes up it will drain off. We'll pray and hope for the best."
On the Stonington side of the Mystic River, onlookers gathered near the flooded park to watch the water rise. Mystic resident Kathy Gauthier snapped some photos of what she said was "history in the making."
"I grew up here and I've never seen it like this," she said.
Gauthier said even her mother, who lived through the hurricane of 1938, said she was impressed by the height of the water.
Groton has issued a mandatory evacuation Sunday for those living in certain shoreline communities, such as Groton Long Point and Noank. About 60 people stayed Sunday night at the emergency shelter at Fitch Senior High School, said Joseph Sastre, the town's emergency management director. The shelter remains open and has a special section for pets.
"My major concern is people living in the low-lying areas that are not heeding the warnings," Sastre said.
Up to date information is available by visiting Groton's Emergency Management on Facebook.
Stonington flooding; bracing for evening tide
In Stonington borough this morning, where high tide was just before 9 a.m., water topped many of the docks that fringe the village. Offshore in Stonington Harbor, waves had inundated many sections of the outer breakwater which had been damaged by Tropical Storm Irene and was scheduled for repairs beginning this week. Much of Sandy Point is also now under water.
The inner breakwater is still above water but the jetty behind Stonington Commons, which cars use to be able to drive on before it was damaged in the Hurricane of 1938, is now under water as well.
The public parking lot at Wayland's Wharf is flooded as is the flood prone road around Hyde Street which the borough just rebuilt.
On East Grand Street, flood waters are threatening to refloat the massive log that washed ashore during Irene. Residents have warned over the past year that if that happens it will threaten nearby docks.
Although police have set up barriers to stop people from for going to Stonington Point, a steady stream of people walked down to the Point to take photos and watch the waves, which have begun to flood the parking lot.
Warden Paul Burgess, estimated this morning that about 30 to 40 percent of borough residents, who are under a mandatory evacuation order.
"When we get to 9 p.m. tonight that will be the real question," he said referring to the time when tide will be high again and the storm will be its strongest.
First Selectmen Ed Haberek agreed.
"Tonight is going to be a nightmare," he said as he drove to Masons Island about 10:15 a.m. to check on the causeway which was topped by water, cutting remaining residents off from the mainland. Masons Island is also under a mandatory evacuation order.
Haberek said Holmes Street along the Mystic River have also flooded as well as sections of River Road along the Pawcatuck River. He said 129 customers of Rivercrest neighborhood in Pawcatuck are without power after a transformer fire.
Twenty-six people are now at the shelter at the high school where school cooks will begin to serve food at lunch for evacuees.
Lyme residents urged to seek shelter
Lyme officials have told residents needing overnight shelter to proceed to the regional shelter at East Lyme Middle School on Society Road.
After the storm, the Lyme's Senior Center on Town Woods Road will act as a respite center with food and water, the Town stated on its Web site Monday morning.
The Hadlyme and Hamburg Fire Stations are open and can provide access to showers, water and any charging of electronic devices.
The Town Hall and Landfill will close noon. The Town has also extended the deadline for in person voter registration to 8 p.m. on Nov. 1.
Waterford residents prepare beachside homes for storm
The cottage at the end of The Strand was the focus of attention for two friends who worked this morning to remove the staircase leading from the cottage down to the beach.
The Crampton's Cottage is the only house in the small beach neighborhood that is directly in front of the breaking waves.
Eight feet of water is all it takes for the yard of the home behind and to the side of the cottage, owned by the parents of Waterford resident Guy Joseph, to be under water.
"It's worse now than it was during Irene," he said. "This is going to be bad."
Storm surges are expected to be double or even triple the size of what they were during Irene, which was three to six feet.
The other neighborhood in Sea Meadows Lane was deserted. Most are summer homes, Joseph said, but there are some year-round residents who did not want to take the chance of flooding or wind damage.
East Lyme shelter busy; roads flooding
By 9:30 this morning, about 70 people had settled in at the American Red Cross regional shelter at the middle school, along with eight dogs and a hamster.
Another 15 people came through the door at about 10:30, and shelter manager Dawn Davis expected still more guests as the day progresses. The facility is open to residents of East Lyme, Lyme, Montville, Old Lyme, Waterford and New London.
"Things have started to pick up," she said. "We're hearing that by 2 or 3 p.m., we should batten down the hatches. Hopefully everybody should be here by then."
Rose Lohne, 81, of Niantic, who remembers the Hurricane of '38, predicted that this storm wouldn't be as bad. Still, she never wants to experience the terror she felt as a 7-year-old girl living on Main Street.
"All the windows in the kitchen were rattling," she said. "Many trees were lost, especially on Pennsylvania Avenue."
As Lohne reminisced from the safety of her cot in the school gymnasium, East Lyme First Selectman Paul Formica was standing at "Ground Zero" in Cini Park, where water was already lapping over the road. The town had ordered the evacuation of all low lying areas Sunday with good reason, he said.
"We're already seeing signs that the flooding at this high tide is coming over the roads," Formica said. "The issue is going to be the fact of the sustained winds over the next 24 to 36 hours are going to keep the high tide in place and not allow it to release back."
Formica said town offices were closing at 11:45 so that all but essential employees would be off the roads. He stressed that people should stay at home.
At the shelter, kids sat cross-legged on cots, playing a game of battle ship. Pet owners tended to their animals, which are being kept in the hallway of the school's lower levels. Local residents were stopping by with donations, including one woman who had eight cheesecakes in her freezer, Davis said.
In the cafeteria, Hank and Sandy DeMazza of Old Lyme spoke with relatives by cell phone and said they were resigned to waiting out the storm at the shelter. Because Mr. DeMazza relies on oxygen tanks, they felt more comfortable here.
"It's our first time at a shelter," said Mrs. DeMazza, who said she has been teased quite a bit about her first name, Sandy, being the name of the moment.
She said the shelter workers and volunteers have thought of everything.
"Nobody should hesitate to come here," she said. "It's incredible."