Misquamicut is ready to reopen after Sandy
After the official warnings for Hurricane Sandy unfolded last fall, the staff at the oceanfront Paddy's Beach Club in Misquamicut did all the usual preparations, just like the year before, with warnings for Hurricane Irene.
And then they got out.
No one knew then that Misquamicut would sustain some of the worst Sandy damage in southern New England.
It wasn't until a few days after the storm that the disaster barricades went down and Misquamicuters got a look at how bad the damage was.
Angela Thoman, business manager of Paddy's, said this week, when I caught up with her as she took progress reports from construction crews finishing a rebuild of the restaurant, that the first shock of the Sandy damage now seems like a long time ago.
Instead, Thoman, like most everyone else in the Misquamicut business community, is focused on the imminent start of the 2013 season.
On the perfect afternoon when I toured this week, along with a fair number of other rubber-neckers driving up and down Atlantic Avenue assessing the last stretch of storm cleanup, things were looking quite ready for summer.
Except for the occasional remaining earth-moving machine, backup buzzers sounding - part of a huge swarm of them that moved sand all around the beach community this winter - it could almost seem like a normal spring cleanup.
"Everyone has worked very hard," said Sally Sorensen, manager of the beachfront Windjammer club, where a wedding party, their first official post-Sandy event, is scheduled for this weekend. "We are going to make it."
At Paddy's this week, workers were just starting to empty the storage containers in the parking lot, where everything from booze to furniture was put away while the building was rebuilt. Workers were busy with last-minute projects, carpentry finishes and installing plugs behind the bar.
Thoman said the official opening of the beach and Paddy's will come May 17, starting with an event sponsored by the Greater Westerly Pawcatuck Area Chamber of Commerce, Hands Along the Sands, in which thousands of people are expected to hold hands and set up a human chain down the beach.
One thing everyone I spoke to agreed on is that some important things in Misquamicut have not changed. The beach, now that all the sand has been moved back, looks the same.
The ocean, of course, hasn't changed, either.
Thoman said the ocean is actually a little closer to the restaurant at the outset of the post-Sandy season.
But beach sand comes and goes with the tides, and everyone in Misquamicut is hoping for more beach building this year and no more big storms.
One other change for the summer of 2013 at Misquamicut is that the big white mansion on the high bluff in the distance, in Watch Hill, will be the new summer home of pop singer Taylor Swift.
No doubt some of the Swift oglers and tourists will make their way to the Misquamicut clubs.
Indeed, I came upon two young women at the end of the driveway to the mansion Swift has apparently contracted to buy, for $17 million.
"I don't think she's there yet," I told the young women, who had parked their convertible with Massachusetts plates at the end of the mansion's driveway, while they took pictures on their cellphones.
"Yes, we know," they said, giggling at themselves for jumping the Swift move-in gun.
But they didn't care.
And Sandy's long gone.
This is the opinion of David Collins.
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