Hunkered down to ride out the storm at Long Lots
Updated 8:35 pm, Tuesday, October 30, 2012
"Whoosh, here comes the wind!"
With that warning from her mother, a "gust" hoisted 1-year-old Pernille Traczyk into the air.
Fortunately, the toddler was not imperiled.
Instead, she enjoyed a mirthful liftoff, as her mother, Lori, scooped her up in a gentle arc.
The laughs shared by the mother and daughter reflected the resilient, almost cheerful, spirit Monday afternoon at the town's emergency shelter at Long Lots Elementary School as Westport residents hunkered down during the ominous prelude to Hurricane Sandy's landfall on the East Coast.
The Traczyk family arrived Monday morning at the shelter. With their Main Street home situated near a reserve, their backyard had already flooded.
"I had to think of my kids -- that was the motivation for coming here," she said. "If we lost our power, along with the flooding, I don't want to think about what would happen next. It would've freaked me out for us to stay."
Her husband nodded in agreement.
"It's the kind of situation where you just grab a few things and then you go," Frank Traczyk said. "Fortunately, they've got a good set-up here."
By early afternoon, a number of families had joined the approximately 60-person contingent of guests at the elementary school shelter.
"We're positioning it to the kids as an adventure vacation," said Philipp Hecker, a Compo Beach neighborhood resident, who came to the shelter with his four young children. "We don't call it the shelter. We told them we're staying at the hotel."
Priscilla Weadon, who lives on a side street of Turkey Hill Road North, also praised the atmosphere of the Long Lots accommodations.
"It makes sense to come here," she said.
"There's a nice sense of community. We're all in the same boat, as it were."
Like Weadon, a number of the Long Lots shelter's guests had sought refuge there last year during Tropical Storm Irene.
"This is a place where people felt so safe last time that they wanted to come back," said Ernest Heidelberg, one of several Community Emergency Response Team volunteers helping town officials run the Long Lots shelter.
A second town-run shelter may also be opened, she added, depending on how many more people seek shelter from Sandy's onslaught.
Waiting on Sandy
Earlier Monday, the town's waterfront drew a number of visitors keen to survey Compo Beach before Sandy wracked the shore.
"We just wanted to see the beauty of Long Island before the storm really hits," said Lisa Fay, who went out for a quick stroll with her daughter, Liz, and their coton, Molli.
Meanwhile, Joe Hughes and his partner, Cindi Hamm, teamed up to fill another sandbag for their Quentin Road home, a couple of blocks from the beach. They planned to stand their ground at home during the storm, Hughes said.
"We'd like to stay, so we can see what happens," he said. "We don't anticipate that we'll be in any great physical danger."
But many, if not most, shoreline residents had already departed. At Old Mill Road, just yards from Old Mill Beach, Nick Visconti announced his intention to evacuate by Monday night.
Before he left, he showed some of his home's fortifications--caulked windows, a blue Lexan board shielding his front doors and the books that propped up his furniture.
"I'm just glad I read all these books," he said. "It pays to be literate."