Daily routines turned upside down by Irene

Geri Rakosky of West Palm Beach, Fla., surveys the damage in the backyard of the home owned by her friend, Rita Rook, on Reyquinn Street in New London Monday. Rook's home was condemned after a large tree tore through the structure Sunday morning. Rook, Rakosky and longtime friend Renee Jones were all at home and sleeping when the tree came through the roof. No one was injured. Rakosky and Jones, both of Florida, were visiting Rook when Hurrican Irene struck. All three women are originally from New London and are lifetime friends.

With the immediate concerns of Tropical Storm Irene safely behind them, thousands of people in the region encountered a second day without electricity on Monday and faced a new scenario: how to cobble together the pieces of a normal day.

They took to the streets to find their morning coffee, a hot shower and Internet access.

At the Public Library of New London, a crowd was awaiting library staff for a belated 1 p.m. opening. The library was open from 1 to 5 p.m.

The library has 14 public computers available for adult use; at mid-afternoon Monday, there was an hour's wait to get on one, said reference librarian Tara Samul. The library also has free Wi-Fi access with unlimited time.

Samul said people were also showing up to charge their cell phones.

"We're probably double the amount (of people)," Samul said, adding that New London was also seeing extra people because Waterford Public Library was closed.

The Bean & Leaf cafe in New London, another spot with free Wi-Fi, was the perfect respite for people seeking their coffee and online fix.

There, David Jaffe, of Quaker Hill, and Rachel Boggia, of Maine, took their first sip of good coffee in two days and looked for a place to sit down with their laptops.

Jaffe, who works at Connecticut College, said he was able to shower there. Boggia was able to keep herself updated through her smartphone. But the two had otherwise spent a lot less time online than usual.

"It's been nice, actually," Jaffe said. The two played board games and took a walk on Sunday. Jaffe and his son watched a movie on the computer until the battery died, he said.

Planet Fitness announced Monday that its showers were being opened to everyone. At the Planet Fitness in Waterford, Mike Penta, general manager, said Monday was busier than usual.

"This place is never like this at noon," Penta said. He confirmed that non-members had come in to use the showers - and no, the staff had not hit them up for memberships unless they asked.

The town of East Lyme let residents to take showers in the locker rooms at East Lyme Middle School. Around 5:30 p.m. Monday, townspeople began to trickle into the middle school parking lot with towels and a change of clothes.

Heather Ruley-Gadbois and her daughter Tori Burdo, who live on Deans Road, came by for a hot shower after a full day of errands and clearing brush.

"We've been working in the yard all day," Ruley-Gadbois said. "We heard about it and brought our towels."

The showers will be open again today from 5:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The windows at the Starbucks on Coogan Boulevard in Mystic were still boarded up late Sunday night, but the popular coffee shop reopened Monday morning and was quickly filled with people looking not just for coffee but also power.

The so-called Golden Triangle area where Starbucks is located is one of the few places in Stonington that had electricity.

No power, but meat

to keep refrigerated

Late Monday afternoon, employees at Salem Prime Cuts, a popular meat and grocery store near the Salem Four Corners, had spent more than nine hours transferring about 18,000 pounds of meat into a generator-powered trailer equipped with a massive freezer.

The work started at 7 a.m. Monday, according to owner John Fusaro, and six employees worked throughout the day to help preserve all the perishable items.

Fusaro said that he was hopeful that most of the items could be salvaged. He didn't have a chance to check in with other town businesses, who were also dealing with various issues as just about everyone in town was without power in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, according to First Selectman Kevin Lyden.

"You can talk about the same things, but it won't get anything done," Fusaro said. "You have to keep plugging."

Ice, chicken, water

When Tri-Town Foods grocery store in East Lyme reopened Monday, customers came looking for ice to keep food cold in coolers, Pop-Tarts and bottled water.

"We're also selling a lot of sandwiches today, and rotisserie chicken and fried chicken," said Jack Fitzpatrick, one of the owners. "We've been very busy."

By early Monday afternoon, the store, which was closed Sunday but never lost power during the storm, had sold out of about 750 bags of ice and was expecting another delivery.

Generators for sale

New England Cycle Works and New England Power Products on Route 184 in Groton might as well have been selling gold for pennies Monday. It had something just as valuable: back-up generators.

In Irene's wake, a stream of powerless customers spilled out the door of the shop, patiently baking in the sun as they waited their turn to secure one of the appliances.

"I'm a member of a motorcycle club, so that's how I heard about it," said Nelson Taylor, a customer near the end of the line. "When I got all the debris cleaned up on my property, I figured I've got nothing else to do but wait in line …"

Around the side of the building, Jeff Welcome, New England's manager, was overseeing the loading of a generator onto a customer's pick-up. A forklift was hoisting another one into position.

"We're selling all kinds. I'm getting 'em wherever I can find 'em," Welcome said.

Welcome said the units range in price from several hundred dollars to the "cream of the crop," which goes for $4,500. He said he's got a cream-of-the-crop model running just about everything at his own Stonington home, one of the many to lose electricity over the weekend.

Take-out lunches

Outside the Electric Boat shipyard, the lunchtime scene on Eastern Point Road in Groton was unusually busy Monday, more fallout from the storm.

Many a would-be brown-bagger had opted instead for the lunch-truck fare offered daily on the road. Some who'd lost power at their homes weren't able to prepare a lunch; others, perhaps stressed by Irene's demands, lacked the will.

"I'm one of the lucky ones in Waterford - I've got power," Chris Lewis, an EB piping designer, said as he nonetheless waited in line at a lunch truck. "I just got lazy this morning."

Day staff writers Judy Benson, Stephen Chupaska, Jeffrey A. Johnson, Brian Hallenbeck and Joe Wojtas contributed to this report.


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