Weather forecasters’ predictions of an unprecedented weather event were not enough — at least in the morning — to force about 10 residents of the Elms Inn in East Lyme from abandoning their shorefront view.
Many of the hotel’s occupants ignored a mandatory evacuation order as they settled into chairs in the front of the hotel, which is about 50 yards from Crescent Beach. They looked out large windows as they enjoyed breakfast, a few cigarettes and Bloody Marys.
“When it came to being here at the Elms, there’s no way I’m passing up beachside, front-row tickets for a good storm like this,” said one man who declined to give his name. “There’s no way.”
Debra DeBarros, another patron of the Elms, said she had been staying with her husband, Gerson, at the hotel since May as the two worked on painting jobs in the area.
DeBarros, from Oldsmar, Fla., about 12 miles from Clearwater, said she has plenty of experience dealing with Florida’s hurricanes. She said she has witnessed wind gusts of up to 120 mph.
While she acknowledged this state poses a number of different concerns — “palm trees bend and maples don’t, you know what I’m saying?” she said — DeBarros said the early signs of Hurricane Sandy were not enough to drive her out of the Elms.
“To be honest with you, so far, to me, this is really nothing,” DeBarros said as she looked out at the waves. “However, we are anticipating bad weather. We’re packed, we’re parked outside and we will be leaving if we have to.”
A number of cars circled on the streets outside the Elms but were kept from the beach by police tape that blocked off Atlantic Street and Crescent Avenue. The beach is near McCook Point Park.
The tape did not deter a few pedestrians. Paul Costa, who lives on Crescent Avenue, was out for a walk in his North Face rain jacket. He said his house is more than 200 feet from the beach and he was not required to evacuate the area.
Nonetheless, he said he would continue to monitor the situation, and a trip to the shelter at East Lyme Middle School remained an option. Asked what would prompt him to leave his home, he said, “If I saw water coming down the block.”
“What we’re hoping is basically it will be a lot of wind and rain and it will go away,” Costa added. “I’m a little concerned about the duration of the storm, but we’re staying put for now.”
Some leave, some stay
Some residents on beachfront roads in Waterford also chose to stay and ride out the best of Hurricane Sandy.
“It’s less threatening than Irene, the tide is higher but the waves are less,” resident Steve Radway said. “I’m not planning to evacuate.”
His family has been in the home on the end of Magonk Point since the 1940s.
“So we only missed the Hurricane of 1938. My mother was in her 90s and she didn’t leave, but this seawall here has been replaced twice since then,” he said.
Magonk Point neighbors plan to gather at Radway’s house this morning to share in a “Sandy brunch.”
“My house has the best view, so we’ll get together and eat and watch the water,” Radway said. “Whatever’s in the fridge we’ll cook it up on the burners.”
Others, however, were leaving their homes.
Guy Joseph, who lives on Dimmock Road, took the time to help his friend remove the staircase that led down to the beach directly in front of the beachfront cottage.
The parents of his friend, Matt Durbois, live there and had evacuated.
“I’m just here to check in on the house again and make sure that everything that needs to be tied down or brought into the house is all set, but I’m not staying,” said Durbois, a South Windsor resident. “My parents went inland already.”
Durbois said that he’s never been at his parents’ beach cottage for a hurricane, but that his father stayed in the house during Hurricane Gloria.
The pair of friends eventually tied the staircase to the telephone pole in the middle of the circle at the end of the road and hoped for the best.
Many of the residents who live in the popular beach community are there only for the summer, but the year-round residents chose to leave. There were few cars parked in the driveways of The Strand and the adjacent Sea Meadows Lane.
“This is worse than it was in Irene,” Joseph said, pointing to the vacant Seaside Sanitarium property on Shore Road. “See that jetty? It wasn’t under water during Irene. You can barely see the top of it now.”
He said that a surge of 8½ feet would put the lawn at his parents’ house — behind the cottage — under water.
“This is going to be a bad one,” he said.