New Canaan prepares for Irene (updated)
Updated 4:56 pm, Thursday, August 25, 2011
The prospect of New Canaan getting its first hurricane in more than 26 years is a little startling to say the least. While New England can handle the worst of Nor'easters, it's not necessarily accustomed to tornadoes, hurricanes or other natural disasters. But that does not mean the town is any less prepared. With advanced media coverage and the experience of the March 2010 storm, New Canaan is doing everything possible to gear up if Hurricane Irene blows in for a visit.
Director of Emergency Management Mike Handler said the town is prepared for Hurricane Irene, which is projected to hit this weekend.
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"It looks like we will get hit sometime this weekend so we are preparing for the worst but hoping for the best," Handler said. "This is not a surprise. It's hurricane season and we're ready for it. We have more than enough people to help staff emergency operations if need be. We are also in constant communication with the state and have access to all the necessary emergency supplies."
Handler said all the preparation for the storm has been taking place long before Irene was even a threat simply because it was hurricane season. Furthermore, he said the March 2010 experience helped them to be even more ready this time around.
"Absolutely, it was an invaluable experience," he said. "The March storm gave us a very clear understanding of the emergency needs of New Canaan."
Those needs may include a shelter but Handler said it was too early to designate a shelter at this point because the road conditions are unclear.
"We don't want to designate a shelter now that somehow becomes inaccessible alter due to down power lines and trees," he said. "So if and when the time arises, we will designate a location."
In the mean time, Kristina Quinlavin, marketing director of the YMCA, said the facility will be ready as a "respite center" for those who might lose power.
"With the current forecast of a possible hurricane affecting our area early next week, the New Canaan YMCA has decided to invest in a generator that will supply power to the Y, providing our entire community with a respite center offering showers, electricity, and internet access in the event that power outages occur," Quinlavin said. "In this event, the Y's locker rooms will be available to all members of the community during normal operating hours."
Fire Marshall Fred Baker issued some tips on protecting your home, specifically your basement and foundation from flooding.
"The single biggest cause of damage from a storm is from water and the most common place for it to appear is in the basement. However many times that water comes from the roof. The most common cause of water in the basement is gutters and down spouts that are plugged, or not properly discharging away from the house," he said in a statement. "By insuring that your gutters and downspouts are clear and free of debris and that the down spouts discharge at least six feet away from the foundation will help make a big difference. With up to 11 inches of rain predicted with this storm, following this advice could save lots of damage and aggravation."
Baker's office also recommended ways to protect your food in the event of a power failure. It said that a full freezer or refrigerator will keep food fresh for up to 48 hours after the power is lost. However, a fridge that is half full is not expected to last more than 24 hours.
"This can be easily rectified by filling milk cartons, soda bottles, etc., with water and put them in the refrigerator/freezer, removing them when you need the space. In preparation for the storm, turn the freezer down as low as you can to store some of this energy," the statement said. "To determine the safety of foods when the power goes on, check their condition and temperature. If food is partly frozen, still has ice crystals, or is as cold as if it were in a refrigerator (40 degrees), it is safe to refreeze or use. It's not necessary to cook raw foods before refreezing. Discard foods that have been warmer than 40 degrees for more than two hours. Discard any foods that have been contaminated by raw meat juices. Dispose of soft or melted ice cream for quality's sake."
Handler added that all residents should register with the town's outcall system on the town website. He added if there are issues with the website residents can simply email their information including name, phone numbers and address to Deputy Director of Emergency Management Jim Cole at Jim.Cole@newcanaan.gov.