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Malloy gets firsthand glimpse of Stonington, New London damage

By Joe Wojtas and Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: theday.com

Published October 31. 2012 12:00PM   Updated November 01. 2012 3:33PM
Tim Cook/The Day
Gov. Dannel Malloy, center right, is joined by Stonington First Selectman Ed Haberek, Jr., Congressman Joe Courtney, left, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, right, as the governor makes stops in Stonington and New London has he tours areas heavily affected by Hurricane Sandy throughout the state Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012.
Leaders show governor shoreline is a long way from back to normal

Gov. Dannel Malloy, wearing jeans and a crisp black windbreaker, strode down the sidewalk next to the Stonington Free Library Wednesday morning and greeted Stonington First Selectmen Ed Haberek.

Unshaven, sleep deprived and wearing a neon safety jacket over the clothes he had worn since Tuesday, Haberek shook the governor's hand.

"So how are you doing?" asked Malloy, who was touring storm damage along the southeastern Connecticut shoreline, stopping in Stonington and New London.

"We're hanging in there," answered Haberek, who was dealing with a crisis at the Mystic sewer plant, a town that was 95 percent without power, and residents' criticism for wanting to have Halloween on Nov 16.

Haberek then led Malloy, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, state Sen. Andrew Maynard and state Rep. Diana Urban on a tour of some of the hardest hit areas of the borough.

Malloy saw the tree, which was still blocking Gold Street, that had fallen on the Stonington Free library. He walked through the Town Dock where flood waters had torn up a chunk of rock and concrete and likely undermined the piers.

Malloy told Haberek that when he heard how hard Stonington had been hit by the storm, he wanted to come see the damage for himself.

After Haberek complained on Wednesday that CL&P had just one crew in town, nine crews showed up.

A few hours after Malloy left town, power was restored to the Mystic sewer plant, which allowed operators to process sewage and stop it from backing up into residents' homes. The return of power came just as a hair salon on Williams Avenue reported a sewage backup and a home on Sloop Lane reported a smell of sewage.

In New London, Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio told the governor a similar story. Late Wednesday morning, about 44 percent of New London was still without power, including the Thames River apartment complex on Crystal Avenue, where 124 families live.

Finizio visited the low-income housing complex to assure residents that he was working with CL&P to get the power back on. He told people that if they had any medical emergencies to call 911.

"We're a tough community and we'll be fine,'' Finizio said.

When Malloy was asked whether he was satisfied with CL&P's response across the state, he said the utility has made a lot of progress. "But if your power is not on then there's not enough progress. We've seen a drop in the numbers (of power outages)."

Along New London's waterfront, residents who ignored a mandatory evacuation order during the storm gathered around the governor and showed him pictures of the storm on their cellphones.

"It was bad, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been,'' said Finizio, showing the governor the remains of a pavilion at the private Osprey Beach. The pavilion was built just after the 1938 Hurricane and had withstood all storms until Monday.

Joseph Caldrello, whose wife Sandy owns the beach, said water steadily poured over the seawall during the storm and waves crashed onto the street. Caldrello lives across from Osprey Beach.

He said the waves sounded eight times louder than a plane taking off.

"It looked like a war zone down here. I felt like I was in a science fiction movie,'' he said. "But the police department and the public works department did excellent jobs.''

Finizio said when he got an alert from the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security Monday night to expect a "catastrophic" storm with an 8- to 9-foot storm surge, he pulled city workers off the streets.

"I wasn't sure there would be any houses standing,'' he told the governor.

Flanked by Blumenthal and Courtney, Malloy mostly listened as Finizio explained how the water crested over the sea wall, and waves crashed across Pequot Avenue and into front yards. The water, which left sand and debris, also swept over the beaches and sea walls along Mott Avenue, flooding basements, he said. The hurricane left debris at Ocean Beach and all along Pequot Avenue. Several large trees came down, blocking roadways, taking down power lines and one landed on a house.

Blumenthal told Finizio it was important to document all damage.

Traveling with the governor in New London were state Sen. Andrea Stillman, and state representatives Ernest Hewett, D-New London, Edward Moukawsher, D-Groton and New London, and Elissa Wright, D-Groton.



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