Residents of East Haven won't soon forget the damage and destruction caused by Tropical Storm Irene one year ago. Those images of destroyed homes along Cosey Beach are impossible to erase from their memories.
Gov. Dannel Malloy, who surveyed the damage the day after the storm hit last August, didn't forget either. He returned to the beach last week (Aug. 27) on the one-year anniversary of Irene to survey the rebuilding and recovery now taking place along the beach.
Malloy, along with other lawmakers, took a tour of the houses along Cosey Beach, talking with homeowners about how they're doing one year later. He saw houses in states of rebuilding and repair, as well as empty spaces where houses once stood.
During the tour, the skies grew dark and the entourage was dampened by a rain storm before Malloy, local and state government officials, and residents met at the Beach House to talk about the progress made and challenges faced by residents over the last 12 months. State Representative James Albis, who is seeking re-election in November, noted how appropriate the day's rain was for the occasion.
Malloy said recent media reports painted a dimmer picture of that progress than what he saw for himself last week. But he said he wasn't surprised to see the progress of rebuilding that is taking place.
Mayor Joseph Maturo, Jr., said that 20 of the 25 homes destroyed are being rebuilt. In all, 40 homes were damaged. He added that 75 percent of people displaced by the storm are now back in their homes.
Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection Deputy Commissioner Bill Shea said the state has received assistance totaling $50 million and that $600,000 was for East Haven. Of another $9.3 million, East Haven has received $660,000.
April Capone, East Haven's mayor when Tropical Storm Irene hit, returned last week to tour the beach, but this time as a member of Malloy's staff. Capone said she now works for the state's Office of Policy and Management, serving as a liaison for cities and towns in the state.
Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, who is seeking re-election in November, credited East Haven residents for remaining strong throughout the storm aftermath, calling them "stalwart" and "courageous."
Joining these officials on the tour were Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Dan Esty and Department of Insurance Commissioner Thomas Leonardi.
Malloy said that state officials will continue to review residents' insurance disputes.
One resident of Cosey Beach Avenue, Charlie Lombardi, said he only received a payment of $2,200 to rebuild.
"I didn't have flood insurance, but I own the house outright," he said.
Maturo said he wants to ensure, going forward, that the local government streamlines the process for people who do want to rebuild.
"We'll also work harder [in the future] when we have evacuations [to make sure] people leave the area."
Albis is also focused on the future as chairman of the Shoreline Preservation Task Force. The task force is addressing the impact severe storms and rising sea levels have on shoreline properties.
"While it's a complex issue, we need to start looking at it now," Albis said.