By Paul Schott
Residents in Westport's waterfront neighborhoods on Sunday rushed to batten down in preparation for the predicted onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, with many of them choosing to heed town officials' warnings to evacuate before the savage storm sweeps ashore Monday.
"I saw what happened last year, which shocked me," said Danbury Avenue resident Scott Smith, who lives in the Compo Beach neighborhood. "And they're saying this could be worse. I had planned on leaving tomorrow morning, but now I'm hearing things that make me want to leave tonight."
To mitigate damage from flood waters, Smith and many of his neighbors reinforced their garage doors with rows of sandbags.
Lisa Neufeld, a next-door neighbor of Smith, said she also planned to leave Sunday night. Like many of her neighbors, she recalled the impact of Tropical Storm Irene last year.
"I had four feet [of water] last year in my garage," she said. "I have everything from my garage in my house right now."
Federal officials have warned the town to expect a 13-foot storm surge -- 3 or 4 feet higher than the inundation from Tropical Storm Irene last year. Flooding from Sandy will be deeper and longer because of the full moon Monday night, and because Sandy is moving slowly, officials said.
On Danbury Avenue, Teri Klein checked the furniture piled up in her living room one more time, before making her exit.
"I'm leaving now because I don't want the first responders to have to come and get me," she said.
Other Compo Beach area residents said they planned to ride out the storm at home.
With the help of Disaster Masters, a new storm-preparation firm from New Milford, Soundview Drive resident Hal Fischel had fortified his garage door with a mesh of duct tape, black contractors' bags and sand bags. Disaster Masters' co-founders Paul Szymanski and David Kendall also helped several other residents in the Compo Beach neighborhood to fortify their homes Sunday.
"We're going around trying to prevent flooding disasters relative to the oncoming storm," Szymanski said. "We have an ingenious floodproofing methodology that we're using."
Evacuation sirens wailed several times along the town's waterfront during the afternoon. But the impending threat did not seem to rattle many of the residents who live within sight of Long Island Sound.
"This comes with the territory, when you live at the beach," said Bradley Street resident Mark McKeown, before he got his car with his family to drive up to a hotel in Shelton. "People here are worried, but they're not panicked."
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