Between helping neighbors and protecting their homes and families, Orange residents weathered Sandy's Monday night assault -- and Tuesday's power outages, downed trees and power lines -- in a 48-hour marathon that could be both exhausting and inspiring.
At the emergency shelter at High Plains Community Center, First Selectman James Zeoli praised the work of public works crews, fire department and emergency services -- all of whom he said had been "going nonstop on minimal hours of sleep" -- as had Zeoli, other town officials and CERT volunteers.
"Thank God for the shelter and the CERT staff," he says. "People don't realize how important this space is, whether you need a place to rest your head, come and get a cup of coffee or take a shower."
The shelter hosted 13 residents -- and three dogs -- Monday night, says Al Mushin of CERT. They ate a breakfast of french toast and hash browns Tuesday morning. On Tuesday afternoon, CERT officials said they were committed to keep the shelter open "as long as it takes."
"It's been tiring," says Mushin. "We're trying to take shifts. We don't want to work people and burn them out."
Zeoli has been working hard himself to make sure the town's recovery moved along smoothly.
"I've been going pretty much nonstop," he says. "I've been meeting with residents. I've been to many many neighborhoods in town today. It's challenging to see people with so much damage after we lived through this last year with Alfred and Irene."
Between Helping Neighbors, Residents Face Their Own Challenges
As Tropical Storm Sandy bore down on Orange, Kevin and Angela McNabola spent Monday night doing what they could to help. Kevin, the business manager for Orange schools, worked alongside volunteer firefighters in Orange as the storm struck and winds picked up. Angela did her part in Bridgeport, where she works as a manager at Bridgeport Hospital.
Then their gazebo attacked.
"We had to go out in the middle of the storm yesterday and drag it because it was in the process of hitting the siding," says Angela. She says the gazebo became "like a projectile" as it slammed against their house. "It cracked like a toothpick -- like a 300-pound toothpick. My 8-year-old little guy started screaming."
Trees Prove Barriers, But Crews Keep Working
As of Tuesday afternoon, serious damage did impact many of Orange's main thoroughfares. According to Police Chief Robert Gagne, the list of blocked roads included Orange Center Road, Lambert, Old Tavern, Indian River, Race Brook and Ridge. (See Orange Patch's Storm Center for full details on road closures reported Tuesday.)
"Some of those beautiful, beautiful old trees are the culprits here," says Zeoli. "A large percentage of damage was done by evergreens. They were just like the masts on a ship in that wind."
Additionally, many trees pulled down power lines. As of Tuesday night, 55% of Orange was without power -- down from a high of nearly 75%, according to Zeoli. Police say the Orange Center Road and Lambert Road blockages were among top priorities, but the downed wires added an extra complication.
"It's not a simple matter of moving the trees out," says Gagne. While UI officials are working alongside Public Works to clear debris -- and many residents are reporting roads have already been opened -- it could be a slow process. UI has not set a timeline for restoring power to customers affected by the storm. In the meantime, residents keep waiting -- and working.
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