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Fairfield Brushes Up after Irene Drops In

Utilities being restored; tree debris bundled; sand piles diminishing; remarkable findings after water recedes

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. 

Peter Tallman August 30, 2011 at 02:12 PM
Thank God residents are cleaning up, the town certainly isn't. Trees and power lines strewn about. I drove to Greenfield Hill, near the town center and down to the beach. I did not see ONE town truck (There WERE 2 vans at Penfield though, yipee). This is on Tuesday morning, yet on Sunday night, restaurants were open and packed to the gills. What a joke.
Gerald Kuroghlian August 30, 2011 at 02:32 PM
The town employees have been everywhere clearing blocked roads and removing fallen trees. Don't be so quick to throw blame given the amount of work in front of them. Mike Tetreault is doing a great job as are those people working with him
Peter Tallman August 30, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Everywhere ??? Did they change the colors of the trucks ?
pam ritter August 30, 2011 at 03:37 PM
Does anyone know how many evacuated to stay at RLHS emergency shelter?
TJC August 30, 2011 at 03:39 PM
I heard from an official at RLHS that there were a total of 70 residents that checked in on Saturday/Sunday.
Tom Flynn August 30, 2011 at 03:51 PM
Glad to hear that the utility trucks are at the beach, because they certainly are not up in the Greenfield Hill area. Finally saw one crew there late Monday - where have they been for two days??? We still have no power/phones, as of Tuesday at noon. I thought they were bringing crews in from other states to supplement our normal work force - guess not......
Mike Lauterborn August 30, 2011 at 06:55 PM
Hi Peter... I beg to differ... I live in the beach area and have seen a steady stream of town trucks hauling tree debris down to the dump. Two just passed my house in the past minute... As to the businesses, it's important that they come back online as quickly as possible, especially in this economy. That's also an encouraging sign for many town residents -- that the worst is behind us.
Mike Lauterborn August 30, 2011 at 06:56 PM
Agreed, Gerald. I saw Mike this morning and commended him on the rapid response and constant updates.
Mike Lauterborn August 30, 2011 at 06:57 PM
Approximately 90 or so people.
Mike Lauterborn August 30, 2011 at 07:00 PM
The sluggish response by UI has certainly been an issue... I have addressed this in my latest update, which will go live just after midnight tonight. Look out for that and you'll see what the town is up against with outside service providers.
Karen August 30, 2011 at 07:09 PM
Should it have been a town priority to get the golf courses opened immediately? I still not have seen one town truck. Maybe all that's important is the golf courses and the beaches and not the rest of the town
TJC August 30, 2011 at 07:39 PM
I think too much attention is being paid to the golf courses and beaches. Its likely that there was very little work that needed to be performed on either of the courses or the beaches in order to reopen them.
susan hersh August 31, 2011 at 01:53 AM
We pay practically the highest electric rates in the country. The utility companies' response is far too slow for the huge monies they collect from us all !
Martha Kuczo August 31, 2011 at 02:44 AM
We are all frustrated by the devestation left in the wake of Irene. Does anyone realize the widespread damages that took place? You are wrong about UI. They have had crews working round-the-clock since the storm in Town. Restoring power after a storm of this magnatude is not a simple task. They assigned reps to work directly with the police & fire departments to expedite the process of getting the calls to their repair units. While normally other utility companies would come into our area to assist in repair, take a look at the map and see just how many states were damaged, and ask yourself where would these guys be coming from? Colorado? As for knocking the Town DPW, they are out there doing their job as well. If a tree is down and has wires involved, they cannot address it until the UI handles the power issue. So please, be patient! This is going to take some time. I will be as glad as anyone else when the power comes back on.
Karen August 31, 2011 at 02:58 PM
You are lucky to have seen UI crews and town crews working. I haven't
Jennifer Butler August 31, 2011 at 04:12 PM
We have trees wrapped in wires across our street and hanging 10 feet above the ground like slings. This is on Wednesday morning. We will not have power for many more days. What is going on down at the beach as far as trucks and repairs is not going on in the rest of the town. I'm grateful my store never lost power, and I can deal with a dark house with no power, but according to my neighbors who are home, the first truck came yesterday for one hour, a crew form Alabama. They said they would be back today, but who knows. One of my neighbors needs daily medical treatment that requires electricity, four of us would be in big trouble if there was a fire-we are unreachable on our cul de sac. We are all being patient and hoping for the best, but many of us are not seeing the changes you are.

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