Locals respond to Harvey storm victims in many ways
Published 1:22 pm, Thursday, September 7, 2017
As the Caribbean and Florida brace for the impact of Hurricane Irma with Jose following right behind it, communities in Fairfield County remain confident about their emergency preparedness plans following the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
After being severely impacted by Superstorm Sandy, which left the state with $360 million in damages, many communities feel prepared should Hurricane Irma make her way up the east coast.
“The challenge is we’re all watching Irma very closely,” said Mike Tetreau, Fairfield first selectman. “We’ll be giving out hurricane preparation instructions. We’re very definitely focused on Irma because it’s so big. We’re prepared for another Sandy as best we can. There are things underway and there are things we’re prepared for. We’re in much better shape than we were going into Sandy last time.”
“Our track record has been incredibly good about the response,” added New Canaan First Selectman Robert Mallozzi III. “The good thing about these storms is they come with plenty of warning and with plenty of warning we can develop a plan.”
Mallozzi added New Canaan officials will track the storm and meet several days prior to any predicted weather event to prepare accordingly. Officials base their responses off what sort of weather is predicted (i.e. more sandbagging in preparation for a more rain-heavy storm).
Call: 800-RED CROSS
Text: HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation
United Way Houston
Text: UWFLOOD to 41444
Food banks in impacted areas
Houston Food Bank: houstonfoodbank.org
Galveston Food Bank: galvestoncountyfoodbank.org
Food Bank of the Golden Crescent (Victoria): victoriafoodbank.org
Corpus Christi Food Bank: foodbankcc.com
Southeast Texas Food Bank (Beaumont): setxfoodbank.org
Food Bank of the Rio Grande Valley (Pharr): foodbankrgv.com
Brazos Valley Food Bank (Bryan): bvfb.org
Central Texas Food Bank (Austin): centraltexasfoodbank.org
San Antonio Food Bank: safoodbank.org
Darien’s first selectman, Jayme Stevenson, said the town feels confident in their updated emergency plans after the coastal town was affected by Superstorm Sandy in 2012.
“We certainly did a lot of discussing and planning after Superstorm Sandy and learned a lot from that,” she said. “There’s nothing tangible we’d do differently today based on what we see from Harvey circumstances. There are obvious differences with a storm of that magnitude, but communication and preparing residents in advance and giving advance directives is one of most important things we can do, but it’s nothing new in terms of actions.”
Stevenson added that since Superstorm Sandy, Darien residents have taken steps to prepare for the impact of future storms, including residents in Noroton Bay raising their homes and moving them out of flood zones.
“During Superstorm Sandy, there were storm prediction models that suggested we could have flood inundation from the coastline to Post Road,” Stevenson said. “We were very concerned about evacuating and we did encourage people to evacuate. It’s all in the timing of that, in getting information up front, in weather patterns and being confident about what you’re getting, to make decisions in enough time so people can get to safety.
“I’ve heard discussions about the situation down in Houston and it’s a difficult call,” she added.
In the wake of Harvey and as hurricane season peaks in September and October, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy held a press conference in which he urged Connecticut residents to download the free “CT Prepare” app for resources before, during and after a storm.
“I know people are concerned about the track of Hurricane Irma and we are tracking this storm,” Malloy said. “The time to prepare for a storm is not when it’s days away, but far in advance.”
On Aug. 29, the governor also issued a statement urging residents to donate to verified nonprofit organizations down in Texas to help with relief.
While many communities feel prepared for a storm to hit at home, the focus is also on helping those down in Texas.
“Our emergency management and public safety officials are in direct contact with appropriate emergency management officials in the southeast Texas region and initiated that contact well over a week ago during the storm,” said Jim Marpe, Westport first selectman. “We have 10 of our public safety employees who’ve indicated they’re willing to volunteer their own personal time to do whatever necessary to help if called upon.”
Robert Yost, chief of the Westport Fire Department, added they are waiting to ensure any assistance they offer is needed.
“We are standing by, awaiting a formal request for assistance,” he said. “Showing up with supplies or equipment that have not been specifically requested can actually hinder operations down there. Westport is ready and willing to offer any assistance that is requested.”
Marpe said one Westport resident with a semitrailer is collecting supplies for Harvey victims. The trailer will be at the Imperial Avenue parking lot and will be filled with donations of nonperishable food, cleaning materials, detergents, diapers, formula, clean blankets and pillows, soap, shampoo, deodorant, bug spray, school and pet supplies, clothes and paper products. Westport fire officials and Darien High School students have also shipped t-shirts to Texas for those who’ve lost clothing.
Local businesses are also contributing a portion of their sales to Harvey relief.
Darien Sport Shop donated a portion of its Labor Day proceeds to relief efforts and Walter Stewart’s Market of New Canaan did the same. The Fairfield University bookstore had a drive for donations.
Fairfield Grace United Methodist Church, 1089 Fairfield Woods Road, is hosting a spaghetti dinner Saturday from 4:45 to 6:45 p.m. to raise money. Tickets cost $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $5 for children. All proceeds will be donated to United Methodist Committee on Relief to provide aid to the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
However, town officials urge residents to donate to reputable organizations and not fall for scams.
“Luckily we haven’t seen anything notable specifically about Harvey just yet,” said Lora Rae Anderson, director of communications at the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection. “If someone encounters a scam — even if they don’t engage — they should absolutely file a complaint with DCP. We tell people that if you even suspect someone soliciting funds from you is a scammer, don’t engage. A reputable organization will always give you time to research them and ask them questions before you donate.”
Anderson added to be cautious about donating to people soliciting for donations outside local businesses, claiming the funds will go to relief.
“They’re not a registered charity for the most part,” she said. “They want money to take home and are using the hurricane as an opportunity.”