Empty and eerie, New London Saturday morning

A pedestrian walks up State Street in New London Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, as snow continues to fall after the heavy winds and deep snow that fell overnight.
Buy Photo Dana Jensen/The Day A pedestrian walks up State Street in New London Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013, as snow continues to fall after the heavy winds and deep snow that fell overnight.

It would be hard to say the last time downtown New London looked so empty.

Could it have been the Blizzard of 1978?

The Blizzard of 2013, in any case, cast an eerie stillness over the place Saturday morning.

The main roads into the downtown - Eugene O'Neill Drive, State Street and Bank Street - were all well plowed. But at dawn, there were no cars anywhere in sight, not parked, not traveling.

The sidewalks were gone, too, buried under big drifts. A few walkers made their way up and down the streets, which they had to themselves.

They needed to pay no attention to the blinking traffic lights, still swaying overhead in the wind and blowing snow.

The few downtown bars that remained open Friday night during the storm were dark and abandoned Saturday morning, their doorways already covered by drifts.

And there was no sign of coffee shops or restaurants stirring to life by 7 a.m.

At New London Fire Headquarters on Bank Street, Deputy Chief Henry Kydd was organizing department manpower to transition from the long night behind him to the busy day ahead.

Twenty two firefighters were on duty overnight, responding to all kinds of calls, from ambulance runs, many for heart attacks, to reports of limbs and wires down. Fire trucks twice had to be pulled out of the snow.

By Saturday morning, Kydd said, about 20 percent of the city was without power and they were considering evacuating some elderly from cold apartments, to a regional shelter in East Lyme.
Indeed, it was already looking like the loss of power will be the focus of emergency responders and public works in the hours and maybe even days ahead.

The firehouse seemed to be the only place Saturday morning downtown where coffee was on.

In fact, a full breakfast was under way in the firehouse kitchen, which fed city public works and emergency teams through the night.

There wasn't much shoveling going on in the rest of the downtown.

But Reggie Collins was working hard on the sidewalks around the Caruso Music building at State Street and Eugene O'Neill Drive.
Collins said he arrived to start shoveling around 3 a.m. By 7 a.m., he had a path all the way around the building, with pavement showing in places.

It wasn't easy, he said. The bottom layer was all ice.

On her way up State Street around 8 a.m. Saturday, Cathy Zall, executive director of the New London Homeless Hospitality Center, said 70 guests stayed at the shelter Friday night. Zall, who walked back and forth between the Federal Street shelter and her New London home, said many who sought shelter were newcomers. Several shelter staff members stayed there overnight, too, Zall said. The shelter was working to procure food because the homeless meal center on Montauk Avenue was closed Saturday, she said.

And all around eastern Connecticut today, people are going to hit the shovels and discover that same, stubborn underground layer of ice that came with the Blizzard of 2013.

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