First Selectman Jeb Walker declared of a state of emergency in New Canaan earlier this evening, and encouraged residents in low-lying areas to evacuate.

Director of Emergency Management Mike Handler says the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) as well as New Canaan police, fire and other officials are recommending the evacuation of nearly 300 homes in low lying areas of town, specifically "the east side of town along the Valley Road area" in anticipation of Hurricane Irene, which is scheduled to hit New Canaan Sunday morning as a Category 1 storm.

"An emergency shelter has been set up at the Lapham Community Center," Handler said. "It is open as of noon today. Currently there are two residents in the shelter."

Handler said evacuations in those areas are "strongly recommended" due to a history of severe flooding.

"[The state of emergency] allows the first selectman to more forcefully encourage evacuation from low lying areas. It also gives us the opportunity to close roads for an extended period of time if necessary," Handler said.

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He added that while nearly 300 home are in low lying areas of New Canaan, the OEM may even go door to door to 30 specific houses in more danger of flooding and damage than others. Assistant Director of Public Works Tiger Mann said those specific homes include:

Valley Road numbers 443, 469 and 447.

Number 781 on Valley Road North all the way to Benedict Hill.

Numbers 30,42, 48, 50 and 51 on Mariomi Road.

Numbers 50, 57, 58 71, 88, 97 on Hickock Road east of the bridge.

Numbers 23, 26, 39, 40, and 41 on Pondview Lane.

Numbers 47,66,75,76 on Osborn Lane.

Houses on Silvermine near Mill Road.

As of right now, Handler said there is no mandatory evacuation but it is strongly recommended in those areas immediately.

"Attempting to evacuate during the storm will be dangerous at best and rescue may not be possible," he cautioned.

For all other residents, the OEM has recommended they stay away from windows, fill their bath tubs up with water if they have a well system in order to have a supply of water and to clear or secure all loose items outside their homes.

"Residents should plan on being self sufficient for a minimum of seven days," Handler said due to potential outages. "If you have an elderly neighbor in need, please reach out to give them any assistance and help prepare them for the storm."

Handler also added that Walker is talking to a senior manager at Connecticut Light and Power to "get dedicated crews in town prior to the storm."

As of right now, the OEM says "it's still to early to tell" what roads will be blocked off or closed in anticipation or as a result of the storm.

As a shelter, Lapham Community Shelter can handle 30 residents. Handler said if the need arises, they are looking at other areas as a secondary shelter. An initial candidate is Waveny House, which can fit in around 60 to 70 people according to Deputy Director of Emergency Management Jim Cole.

"We have sleeping accommodations for 150 people in town," Handler said. "[Beyond that] we will access some help from the state if necessary."

If residents do decide to go to Lapham for the shelter, Handler advised them to bring medications and anything else they feel will make them more comfortable including linens, food and even their pets.

"If you bring your pets to the shelter we will make arrangements for them to be picked up by the town animal control officer to have them taken to an animal shelter in town," he said.

The OEM has also set up a 24-hour call center for those who want more information or help to prepare for the hurricane. More than 30 volunteers are expected to help out this weekend. For more information on how to prepare or to offer up your services to volunteer call the Office of Emergency management at 203-594-4100.

"We are very fortunate to have strong support from our residents in town, vendors in town as well as neighboring towns and the state who have all been very, very helpful for preparation," Handler said. "We are as prepared as I think we can be given the circumstances. Keep in mind this is an event unlike one we have seen in our past so that is part of what we do in this business. We prepare for the inevitable and what we haven't seen before."