At least 25 homes in East Haven were destroyed, one person has died, others are missing and more than half the state is without power after Tropical Storm Irene tore through Connecticut Sunday.
East Haven mayor April Capone said that at least 25 homes in the Cosey Beach neighborhood were "a total loss" — swept out to sea, collapsed or missing entire sides.
"It's devastating," said Capone. "Fortunately, we have no loss of life, which is the most important thing."
Capone said that most residents left before the storm struck, but that several people had not heeded the mandatory evacuation and needed to be rescued. She said that residents would be allowed to return to the area tomorrow, adding, "but in some cases there's nothing there."
Gov.Dannel P. Malloysaid that three people were missing, two in East Haven and one in Bristol. East Haven police said they were not searching for any missing people, but state officials said that two residents of a heavily damaged home remain unaccounted for.
In Bristol, the national guard rescued one of two men whose canoe capsized in the flood-swollen Pequabuck River just after 3 p.m. While one man was able to swim to the river bank and wait for rescuers, police said witnesses never saw the second man, identified as Shane Seaver, 46, surface. The National Guard continues to search for Seaver.
"I heard the people yelling 'Help, help' — they were coming down the river," said Kathy Oates. "Then they banged their heads right into the end there, next thing they went under and my husband went running."
Malloy warned citizens against taking unnecessary chances in difficult weather.
"I hope and pray their lives are not lost," Malloy told reporters Sunday. "There is no reason to be on the water," in a canoe or kayak.
Following the storm, many towns along the Housatonic, Connecticut and Farmington Rivers worried about flooding. Farmington urged residents in several areas along Route 4 and New Britain Avenue, as well as Riverwood and Farmington Village to evacuate.
Trees, branches and power lines remain strewn across roads in every town in the state. Major highways are open and tractor-trailer bans have been lifted, but many local roads are impassible. About 2,000 residents are in shelters across the state.
At 11 p.m., 767,324 electric customers were without power, a number that was expected to climb through the night as wind gusts dislodged lose branches and wires. There is no timeframe for the restorations, which will affect school openings this week.
Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford was forced to evacuate all 43 patients to other area hopsitals after a generator failed during the power outage Sunday afternoon. Staff remained in the emergency, operating and obstetrics departments.
The number of outages is the highest in recent memory, and crews will likely take days to restore all power. With large numbers of downed trees, state and local officials will be working overtime in the coming days to restore the state to normalcy. CL&P said that it would have "several hundred crews," working throughout the night and ramp up services at 7 a.m. Monday when crews can "maximize daylight hours and be most productive."
The storm hit the shoreline in concert with a strong high tide, causing a surge that swamped roads and homes from Fairfield to New London.
Along Fairfield Beach Road in Fairfield, flood waters surrounded homes, with the waters of the sound rising a quarter mile from the shoreline. Fairfield Fire Chief Richard Felner said that four homes were severely damaged and that two or three would probably have to be torn down.
Rescuers searched the homes after receiving a report that someone was trapped inside, but found no one. The area was part of a mandatory evacuation Saturday, which was extended Sunday when high tides contributed to major flooding.
Sections of Fairfield Beach Road remained impassable, but tourists eager to see the damage flocked to the area. There is also significant flooding on Harbor Road and in the Ash Creek area, she said.
In Prospect, a woman died in a house fire caused by downed wires.
The fire occurred at 111 Clark Hill Road around 5:20 a.m. when a tree in the front yard fell and pulled down the power lines, said Lt. P.J. Conway of the Prospect Volunteer Fire Department.
Two elderly people lived in the house, Conway said. The man escaped.
In Milford, many people had to be rescued from their homes. Police and fire dive teams, with the help of the National Guard, were in the Bayview and Point Beach areas of town, getting people out of houses as high water rushed into the streets.
Among those rescued were a husband and wife in their 60s, who were in their ocean-front home on Shore Front drive when a wave blew out a picture window and came into the house, according to police.
Police said they dispatched a marine unit and dive team on two inflatable vessels that were able to rescue the couple along with their bulldog and cat.
On West Main Street, a tree uprooted and fell onto a house, shattering a window that a young boy had been peering out of seconds before. The boy was shaken but unharmed.
About 27 people were at the shelter at Jonathan Law High School, said Dr. Dennis McBride, the town health director.
"Many of the areas have been flooded before, so we have people who realize this may be a bigger flood than before," he said.
West Haven also saw extensive damage, especially along its 3.5 miles of public shorefront. State representative Stephen Dargan said that he has never seen the likes of it in his 56 years as a resident.
"Everything is washed out on Beach Street,'' Dargan said in a telephone interview. "We have water all around us. I've lived here in West Haven all of my life and I've never seen it like that.''
Transportation problems persisted into the evening, with Interstate 95 in Waterford littered with debris and crews using plows to clear impassible portions of Route 1. The Tappan Zee Bridge, used by many who commute to jobs in New York will likely be closed for several days, according to Malloy.
The Wilbur Cross and Merritt parkways re-opened around 1 p.m. Sunday.
Metro-North suspended service into Monday because of significant damage to many portions of the Hudson, Harlem and New Haven lines. In addition to downed trees all along the New Haven line into Manhattan, local streams and the Bronx River continued to flood the tracks and high winds felled trees into the night.
"We can't even send our inspection trains out yet to see if tracks are under water, if we've had washouts, if any switch controls are fried," spokeswoman Marjorie Anders said Sunday afternoon. "Just because this wasn't the worst hurricane in New York history doesn't mean we don't have trouble."
Normal bus operations are scheduled to resume Monday in Stamford, Hartford and Waterbury.
With power out all across downtown, Bridgeport wants everyone off the streets by 8 o'clock tonight.
Mayor Bill Finch is asking for help from nearby police agencies to help enforce the curfew.
"We want to make sure everyone is safe, especially while the power is out," Finch said this afternoon. "We've gotten through the hurricane without any major problems, and we ask everyone to cooperate to maintain order."
Shortly before noon, United Illuminating shut off power downtown because of potential flooding at two substations. City officials and UI executives are meeting to determine who to proceed.
"They're working on it diligently. Hopefully we'll have some good news soon," said Elaine Ficarra, Finch's spokeswoman.
At the Holiday Inn downtown, a desk clerk reported the hotel was still open but had no lights or air conditioning. Elevators were running on generator power, she said.
Rainfall in the city totaled 6.5 inches as of 1 p.m. Stratford Avenue has been closed on and off because of rising waters, and the I-95 southbound exit ramp at Wordin Avenue also was shut down.
About 35,000 businesses and homes in Bridgeport had no power as of 1 p.m. About 700 city people were in emergency shelters at two high schools.
Large trees have fallen on two houses in the Black Rock section, causing substantial damage, city officials said.
New Haven police blocked off roads near the shoreline Sunday morning, and a stretch of Woodward Avenue near the Morris Cove section was closed after a large tree toppled over. Around 2 p.m. Sunday, the evacuation order for Morris Cove was lifted and people were allowed to return to their homes.
Motorists near Yale and the downtown Green dodged broken branches here and there Sunday afternoon, but traffic still moved freely. Although few residents ventured out Sunday morning, by the afternoon the streets started to fill with pedestrians, bicyclists and homeowners clearing debris.
Mayor John DeStefano Jr. ordered public works and tree crews to work throughout the night to remove an estimated 1,250 downed trees blocking some 30 streets.
The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings in Windham, Hartford, Litchfield, Middlesex, New Haven and Tolland counties.
Thirty-five towns declared states of emergency after the storm struck, including West Hartford, which was removed Sunday night after CL&P crews started removing live wires that were downed or tangled in trees.
Trees and more than 2,000 telephone poles are down across the state, especially in shoreline towns and in southeastern Connecticut, but damage spread as the storm moved north.
According to Bristol police, a 15- to 20-foot long, one-lane wide portion of Route 72 near Clark Avenue and Terryville Road "washed away." Much of route 72 is impassable.
Residents in the Forestville section of Bristol along East Main Street have been ordered to leave their homes, Bristol police said.
A police dispatcher said Mayor Art Ward has sent a message to the entire city notifying residents to consider evacuating their homes if they are in a low-lying area near a river or stream.
The heaviest rain has moved out of the state, according to Fox CT meteorologist Joe Furey, but showers are still possible Sunday afternoon, and a westerly wind could gust up to 40 mph at times.
"It's an improving situation," Furey said. But he cautioned that shifting winds could loosen branches, and additional scattered power outages are still possible.
Malloy reopened the Merritt and Wilbur Cross parkways around noon and lifted a tractor-trailer ban he had imposed on all roads in the state.
The state, he said, avoided the idea of erecting woodenhorses to literally block the highway entrances because those horses would become "projectiles in 50 mile-an-hour wind.''
As such, the main enforcement of the ban on the long highways was through Malloy's announcements on live television.
"As winds have picked up and the rainfall has increased, we can't guard every downed tree, nor can we guard every downed wire, nor is it necessarily a smart thing for us to be guarding every downed tree at this point,'' Malloy told reporters Sunday at the state's emergency operations center at the state armory in Hartford. "If you're out there, you're on your own.''
Besides the highways, the cross-Sound ferries that leave Bridgeport and New London for Long Island were closed Sunday. Buses stopped running throughout the state on Saturday, and the Metro-North Commuter Railroad remained closed down.
Overall, 32 cities and towns reported evacuations, and about 1,600 people stayed in shelters in Saturday night.
A firefighter was taken to St. Mary's Hospital in Waterbury for minor injuries after he touched the house and received an electrical shock. The occupant of the house was hospitalized for smoke inhalation.
At high tide on Sunday, East Haven police came to roust residents from the town beach. One officer leaned into the wind to retrieve a few picture-takers standing near the sea wall. He then got back into his car, and got on his loudspeaker and said:
"What part do you not understand? Get off the beach. We have downed lines."
Meanwhile, standing on a hill overlooking a flooded Cosey Beach Avenue in East Haven on Sunday, a homeowner who identified himself only as Arnold pointed to his two-story house facing the sound. As waves crashed over the roofs of some of his neighbors, Arnold shrugged.
"It looks like it's still standing from here," he said. "I just hope everyone got out." Police evacuated the street yesterday, and Arnold said he was among the last to leave at around 7 p.m. Saturday. Down the street, one house had caved in on itself, and another had been battered by wind and waves, and all that was left of the first floor was the framing. A curtain fluttered in the gusts. Arnold shrugged, waving toward the damaged homes on his street.
"A house is a house," he said. "People are people."
Karen and Fred Ortola looked out on a roiling Long Island Sound at 8 a.m. Saturday, about an hour and a half before high tide.
They stood on a concrete slab next to Rocky Neck State Park, which was engulfed by the storm surge as waves crashed into bushes.
"It's almost all gone," Fred said.
The couple decided to weather the storm at their home in Niantic, just up the hill from Rocky Neck, instead of staying in their Kensington home, which has a lot of trees.
"During a storm, you can hear them creaking," Karen said.
A dozen or so curious residents came down to Giants Neck Heights private beach, next to Rocky Neck, to take photos and videos of the storm.
At Saybrook Point, where the Connecticut River meets Long Island Sound, the ocean was at full boil. Wind-driven white caps slammed into the sea wall, sending huge plumes of salty spray into the parking lot.
Occasional wind gusts near 70 mph drove horizontal rain there.
The wind, the surge and the incoming tide flooded the Saybrook Point parking lot and nearby marina. Police blocked the causeway between Saybrook Point and Fenwick area, but a few people were out walking on it.
In New London, parking areas and docks near the ferries to Long Island and Block Island were underwater even two hours after high tide.
Shortly before noon, some windows had blown in on buildings along S. Water Street in the downtown area.
David Spon, the owner of a building at 90 Bank St., was out walking his Portuguese water dog in the moderate wind.
Spon said his building, home to Roberts Audio Video, had two windows broken by the wind.
In West Cornwall a small bridge collapsed Sunday due to fast moving water from a brook feeding the Housatonic river.
Danbury called in all public works crews Sunday morning, and Mayor Mark Boughton Tweeted around 8 a.m. that Irene had hit: "It's on people. It's on."
On Main Street in the Southport section of Fairfield, a tree fell into a house, causing the roof to collapse, according to Assistant Fire Chief Douglas Chavenello.
Customers are advised to be prepared to go a week or more without power, spokeswoman Ashley Duncan said.
Many businesses are closed, and many churches canceled services.
Five hundred Connecticut National Guard troops are in position at armories across the state and will be deployed Sunday morning, Malloy said.
Around the state, highway information signs flashed "No Unnecessary Travel. For Your Safety." Malloy said he might ban non-emergency driving on state highways, if necessary.
All air, train and bus service had been suspended.
Amtrak also announced that it suspended service through Sunday in New England, as well as in the Southeast, mid-Atlantic and Northeast states.
In addition to the National Guard, the state has issued 2,000 emergency licenses for out-of-state adjusters, pushing the overall total to 5,000 adjusters ready to handle insurance claims related to the storm, Malloy said. And mobile cell towers have been moved into the state for recovery efforts.
Malloy said that all non-essential workers will be expected at work at 10 a.m. Monday, so they can help residents in need of state services.
"We've got to get our state employees back working," he said.
Courant staff writers Julie Stagis, David Owens, Don Stacom, Matthew Sturdevant, Christopher Keating, Steven Goode, Shawn Beals, Hillary Federico, William Leukhardt, Kim Velsey and Melissa Pionzio and FoxCT's Laurie Perez, George Colli, Erin Flanigan, Michael McGuire, Ayana Harry, Tom Lewis, John Charlton, Anthony DiLorenzo, Rocco Paolino, David McKay and Jeevan Vital contributed to this story.
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