Irene's Destruction; Westporters Spend an Afternoon Outside After Storm

Regardless of the flooding and other destruction done by Hurricane Irene, Westporters ventured outdoors to places like Compo Beach to see the damage.

The aroma of fresh maple was in the air throughout the streets of Westport Sunday as chainsaw engines screamed while crews worked after Irene departed the area.

Gigantic trees that were snapped like twigs by Irene’s force littered the roads and residents’ yards. There were road closures spanning across town throughout the day, mainly because of fallen power lines.

After Irene departed the area, locals and tourists packed the streets near Compo Beach trying to get a peek at the damage. As evacuees with suitcases returned home to the neighborhoods around Compo, sightseers, kayakers, bikers, joggers and puddle jumpers frolicked throughout the streets.

Westport residents Bob Randall and his son Steven walked through the flooded areas downtown simply because they were out of power and had nothing better to do.

Not everyone downtown was strolling around leisurely, though. Paul Traunecker, the property manager at 33 Riverside Plaza on Wilton Road, was tending to the large property. The entire lower level garage at Riverside Plaza was flooded and Traunecker worked to pump the water back into the Saugatuck River.

“This is the highest I’ve ever seen it since I’ve been here. It went higher than the ’92 storm,” Traunecker said.

He plans to pump water out of the garage for as long as he can. At 10 p.m. when high tide rolls in, he will be forced to shut the pumps off, though, because the Saugatuck River will be higher than the pipe his pump drains to.

“I can’t pump out Long Island Sound, I’ll burn the pumps out,” Traunecker said.

Tenants from 33 Riverside Plaza will be working remotely from home Monday, according to Traunecker.

“The storm surge came in, in 15 minutes; I won’t be able to get their cars out in time,” Traunecker said regarding the possibility of another flood.

About a mile down the road, on Saugatuck Avenue, nearby the Westport Rail Road station, large trees shredded power lines, crushed telephone poles, and left debris scattered around the area. There were several power transformers shattered and in hundreds of pieces on Saugatuck Avenue.

Julia Onorato, of Westport, was walking her Chocolate Labrador, Amber, down Saugatuck Avenue to a friends house when she encountered a tree blocking the road. The huge maple tree and scattered power lines did not bother her, though. She trudged her way through the mess in the road.

Across town at Compo Beach, hundreds of people gathered at the shore to catch a glimpse of Irene’s destruction path. Families and friends walked down Compo Beach Road, which was closed to cars. Bikers and kayakers also made their way through the streets. Cars lined both sides of Compo Road South in front of the Westport Longshore Club Park to visit the shore as if it were a typical beach day in Westport. 

patricia sinclair August 29, 2011 at 03:49 PM
I think it's a shame people come to places that are devasted by storms to be voyeurs. Other people's misery seems to be a particular trait of human syche that I truly do not get.
Chris Rueli (Editor) August 29, 2011 at 04:34 PM
Understandable. My godfather lives in Springfield, Mass. and he was furious about the amount of out-of-state cars in his neighborhood after the tornado hit earlier this summer. They all had fancy cameras and were taking pictures, in some cases, of families crying in their front lawn as they looked at their destroyed house.


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