Sunny skies and calm seas Saturday morning were a stark contrast to the damaging wind and surging tides of Hurricane Sandy, which pummeled the homes along Saugatuck and Compo Beach's shoreline a week before.
After weathering a snowy nor'easter as well last week, the balmy weekend weather was ideal for the storm-battered residents to take stock and begin regrouping, repairing and restoring.
Steve Nelson and Mary Anne Mayo surveyed the ravaged landscape that was once their Harbor Road front yard, which was battered by the angry seas that also surged into the home. They evacuated the house on Oct. 28 after town officials issued that warned. All seemed relatively calm the next day until about 9 p.m., they recounted, when their home's burglar alarm was triggered, signaling Sandy's arrival.
"The ocean came over the top of the seawall, blasted the fence to pieces, hit the slider doors head on and knocked the frame and door into the house," Nelson said. "The flood water carried the door itself down the street and scooped up half of everything and dumped it in the boat basin. It pulled out the contents of the garage, too.
"It's amazing what survived, including bottles of wine," he added. "We've lived here since 1997 and we've never had any flooding at all, with the exception of Irene -- we had to replace carpeting."
But with much more significant damage from Sandy, he advised, "You have to get the wet stuff out of the house as quickly as possible before mold takes over."
Nelson's contractor, Peter Sheldon, of Advanta Clean, which specializes in water damage restoration, said Sandy had caused some of the worst damage that he had ever seen, and that at Nelson's home, "The surge actually came through the house -- a destructive level."
Farther down Harbor Road, Peter Faigl was busy assessing damage to his property. While he had moved most ground-floor contents to a higher level in the house and opened the front and back doors of his garage to let water just rush through, he still lost a new washing machine and dryer. Both were full of sea water and dirty debris.
Mike Pengue, at the corner of Island Way and Cockenoe Drive on Saugatuck Island, considered himself one of the lucky ones with regard to Sandy's assault, even though his home is about 150 feet from Long Island Sound. "We were mandatory evacuated on Monday and I came back at 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday," he said.
"We had five feet of sand on the road, but the water had already receded. I had sandbags around the garage, which was the lowest point," he added. "The water came halfway up them but stopped, so there was no water in the house."
Oddly, Pengue said he found about 2,000 full oysters scattered on his front lawn in Sandy's aftermath, as well as bottles of wine and champagne that had washed across the street from a neighbor's waterfront home. "The combo of oysters and champagne would normally have made a great beach party," he joked.
Steele Bray, of Bray Construction, was busy supervising a work crew at a client's Hillspoint Road home directly on Mill Pond, which had been slammed by the storm. "There were east winds coming off the ocean which made a direct hit on the house," he said. "Everything four feet and down had to be opened up and dried out -- all the insulation, sheetrock, electrical, plumbing.
But, in advance of the storm, Bray said the homeowner had put furnishings up on sawhorses and covered the windows with plywood, bu the flood waters still burst in and filled the downstairs.
"There was a layer of mud in here to the extent that you couldn't see the floor. Ironically, I refurbished the house just a year ago, after Irene," the contractor said.