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Friday, September 23, 2011

Fairfield Brushes Up after Irene Drops In

Fairfield Brushes Up after Irene Drops In:
Utilities being restored; tree debris bundled; sand piles diminishing; remarkable findings after water recedes
By Mike Lauterborn
(Posted to 8/29)
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – You can’t keep a good Fairfielder down. Fairfielders are a resilient, fun-loving bunch and, if you think a little dust-up’s going to stop them in their tracks, you don’t know Fairfielders.

As Patch embarked on another tour of the area, at 5:30 p.m. late Monday afternoon, locals had already made a big dent in the clean-up process after Tropical Storm Irene, known in southern states as Hurricane Irene, made her brash town visit.

Like oversized organic lawn ornaments, piles of tree limbs and leaves had popped up curbside all over town, the result of the hard labors of residents exercising some good old-fashioned elbow grease. Indeed, leaf blowers and rakes had become the fashionable accessories, much like Coach bags and Ray Bans were mandatories pre-storm.

Next to many of these tree salads, particularly in the Beach Area, were the sopping wet, musty-smelling contents of garages and basements – victims of a surprising amount of water that rushed far in along low-lying streets. 

Other popular late summer must-have style statements included shovels and brushes, which Beach Area residents modeled in their driveways, pushing muck away from asphalt surfaces and blue stone walkways.

Here and there, sandbags, used the day before to try and block the course of advancing water, stood in rows, removed to the side.

And what trendy Fairfielder wouldn’t want to be seen in a late model Bobcat front loader? These were brought in by crews like Pine Creek Landscape Design. Said biz owner Matt Grauer, on the scene near 997 Fairfield Beach Road, “I have a lot of customers here. It’s where I grew up and started. Sand displacement happens every time we have a major storm.”

Joining Grauer on his day’s rounds and sitting in a company dumptruck was his girlfriend Emily Lynch. “I work in Stamford as a graphic artist for a marketing company,” she explained, “but the trains were down today. So I decided to spend my day off on Matt’s job site. It’s been fun to see what he does all day and experience a typical day’s work.”

Further west and not having quite as much fun was Nancy Henry, the homeowner at 1165 Fairfield Beach Road, standing beside a pile of soggy bric-a-brac raked from her garage. “The house was fine… a little sand build-up. But we had four feet of water in the garage,” she said. “We always expect to get water but just not as much as this time. My husband is an insurance agent, so we’ve got all the coverage. But it’s a mess… all the mud and dirt. By the weekend, though, we should be in good shape. Heck of a way to clean your garage.”

Further along Fairfield Beach Road, a gas company rep summed up what he’d seen. “The end of Fairfield Beach Road is the worst. The gas meters were actually ripped off the houses. We’ve been repairing them until they get the electricity back on, which will allow the gas to come back on.”

He pointed to both an adjacent mailbox with a horizontal watermark across the box and an Evacuation Route sign that had a dirty watermark just past the 9-foot above sea level indicator. The latter were spitting distance from 1206 Fairfield Beach Road, where Allison Haigh was helping her boyfriend remove waterlogged items from their two-story rental. She pointed to two cars at the back of their driveway – a 2010 Mercedes and a 2008 Volkswagen Jetta – that had been underwater during the storm and now had all their doors open and mats out to try and effect a drying process. Water was still collected in the foot wells of the Jetta.

“The cars belong to our neighbor across the street,” Haigh said. “Sea water came up and over the cars,” Haigh said. “The Jetta’s a total loss according to the owner; the Mercedes might be saved.”

Out on The Point, Susan Fuchs, the tenant at 2154 Fairfield Beach Road, one of the three houses that had been condemned due to storm damage, was understandably frantic as she stuffed into boxes what she was able to salvage from the home. The structure had cracked in half, with the back half falling into the inlet.

“I’ve lived here for two years. This is just unbelievable,” Fuchs said. “My husband didn’t want to evacuate. We had a big fight about it actually. The Westport Inn has been stupendous, holding our dogs and putting us up. They’re the only place that will allow pets.”

Steps away, Cablevision rep Hector Rosado was making assessments, though his hands were a bit strapped with regard to next steps. “I’ve never seen anything like this. All of Benson Road’s powerlines were down. The flooding was amazing. Probably thousands of people were affected. We’re sort of playing a waiting game to see who’s got service after electricity gets restored. We can’t do anything until then.”

One silver lining to the destruction at the point was the survival of Jackie Fedor’s grandfather’s house at 2170 Fairfield Beach Road. “We come here every weekend in the summer,” Fedor said. “I’ve come here since I was a baby. In 40 years, I’ve never seen anything like this. Amazingly, we only lost siding while every neighbor’s house around us was seriously damaged.”

Two military Humvees came up the road then – a reconnaissance team from the National Guard, 248th Engineers, part of the 192nd division out of Stratford. They were surveying the area, according to one of the drivers, to determine needs. Their trucks rolled by satellite broadcast and news service trucks that were nesting on either side of the road.

Unintentionally, Fairfield had found itself in the public eye. 

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