Assessing the damage

Police have been using an armored vehicle to reach areas heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy. (John Kovach Photo)

Police have been using an armored vehicle to reach areas heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy. (John Kovach Photo)

With more than 40% of Fairfield still in the dark Friday, First Selectman Michael Tetreau offered an invitation.

“I’ve invited the president of UI here,” Tetreau said, to hear first-hand from his customers.

There has been no reply, Tetreau told those gathered at First Church, Congregational on Beach Road Friday afternoon.

As of 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2, the number of Fairfield homes and businesses hovered around 40%.

There were 66 power crews in Fairfield Friday, the most since Sandy pummeled town from the beach to the woods on Monday, Oct. 29.

As of Friday, 672 structures have been examined around the beach area, with 500 sustaining minimum damage, 87 sustaining moderate damage, 64 sustaining severe damage and 26 condemned.
The number of houses condemned will rise, according to town officials.

Fire Chief Richard Felner said Friday efforts were still focusing on making areas of town safe. There were still 371 trees and wires down.

“We want to make sure it’s not dangerous,” he said.

Dangerous situations have arisen as crews work to restore power. One man in the audience Friday asked why power was restored on Rowland Road, only for UI to turn it back off a short time later.

The crew from Georgia that turned power back on, Tetreau said, was not authorized to do so, and sent electricity into wires that were still down in ponds of water in areas where rescuers were walking.

Responders continue to visit each house, looking for people and to check for water damage and gas leaks before power is restored. If potential hazards are found, meters are removed, and power will be restored only when a private electrician makes repairs.

Efforts to pump water from the beach area have been succeeding, and residents near the water may be able to inspect their homes Saturday, officials said.

Residents expressed a desire to see their houses as soon as possible, as forecasts hint at a Nor’easter the middle of next week.

Police Chief Gary MacNamara said officials are in both disaster management mode and preparation mode with an eye on the forecast.

Temperatures are also dropping, and as the time without lights and heat drags on, more of those who chose to stay are asking to be rescued from their homes.

Police and National Guard troops are patrolling evacuated areas to protect houses. Thursday night, several houses in the northern part of town were burglarized, a crime MacNamara said was found by a police patrol, which have been doubled since the storm.

Checkpoints are controlling who may visit the beach area. Residents, who must show ID, can take a contractor to inspect the damage in some parts. West of Reef Road, where houses were washed away, there remains no access.

Water still covers some of Fairfield Beach Road. Sand covers other stretches. Some portions have washed away, Asst. Fire Chief Scott Bisson said.

Military vehicles have been used to take residents for brief tours of their homes. MacNamara said he was hopeful that by Saturday some would be allowed to visit.

Public Works continues to pump water from the beach area. Director Joseph Michelangelo said sand on roads will be removed, but residents will have to remove sand from private property.

Beach residents can put damaged items at roadside for pickup, which will begin Monday. Michelangelo said there is no need to worry about missing the date, as crews will remove trash until it is gone.

Brush pickup is also set to begin. Branches and limbs can be left at street side, but Tetreau cautioned against blocking roads.

The shelter at Roger Ludlowe is being transitioned to an overnight facility, 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., rather than a 24-hour refuge.

The Transfer Station and Green Cycle will be open all weekend, and both branches of the Fairfield Library will be open with expanded hours this weekend.

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