Storm blamed for woman's death, leaves trail of damage
Published 4:21 pm, Monday, March 15, 2010
The rainstorm that swept through the area with strong winds Saturday has been blamed for the death of a 39-year-old woman.
The victim, Jennifer Thibault of Long Valley, N.J., was reported to have died when a large tree fell on her vehicle while traveling northbound on Park Lane at approximately 7 p.m. Saturday, March 13.
According to an incident report, the three passengers with her had exited the vehicle prior to the arrival of emergency personnel. They were transported to Norwalk Hospital for treatment. Thibault was pronounced dead at the scene.
As the extrication effort was winding down, additional pine trees in the vicinity began falling down due to the heavy wind. One pine tree hit a Society to Aid the Retarded Group Home located on Park Lane, causing severe damage to the rear of the group home. No clients were in the group home at the time the tree hit the roof, and when the clients and their group home manager arrived at the home on foot, they were transported by fire personnel to the evacuation shelter open at the Westport Center for Senior Activities.
Then, according to the report, another tree fell down and narrowly missed firefighters assigned to Truck 1, the department's 95-foot tower ladder truck. The vehicle was rendered unusable as a result of the damage sustained from the tree's impact. A public works crew operating with firefighters on the scene also narrowly missed being hit by the tree that hit the ladder truck.
A statement from the utility company said: "As we are in the process of determining the full magnitude of storm damage due to the significant rain and damaging high winds, we are not providing exact restoration projections, but expect it may take several days in some areas."
Easton Road resident Jane Dally reported that she was still without power as of 11 a.m. Monday. On Saturday, shortly after she and her family got home, she said, "These white pines starting shooting around like torpedos."
The trees crushed the Dally's vehicles and fell on their house.
As a result of power outages and storm damage, Westport Public Schools, along with a few other districts in the county, were cancelled Monday.
Westport First Selectman Gordon F. Joseloff said Monday that CL&P has pledged to have full restoration of power in Westport by 8 p.m. Wednesday.
"We were on a conference call with CL&P and state officials a short time ago and that was the pledge that was made," Joseloff said.
"We are seeing an increasing number of outside crews coming into town and the state Department of Transportation is now working with us on their roads in town," he added.
On the state conference call, he said representatives of the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said Fairfield County must meet a threshold of $2.8 million in damage to qualify for federal aid.
In addition, he said state officials reported that assistance for homeowners suffering major damage from tree strikes would be available if the level of such damage rises to at least 100 homes struck.
The Westport Fire Department reported on Sunday it had responded to at least 27 homes that were hit by falling trees. The storm kept the department busy the duration of Saturday into Sunday. A voluntary evacuation of the beach area was also put into effect.
The Post Road near the intersection of Turkey Hill was impassable at approximately 4:30 when a large tree fell and blocked traffic in both directions. Around the same time, just up the street, Long Lots Road was nearly impassable when a felled tree took down power lines and blocked the majority of the roadway. Route 33 was also closed when a tree fell in the vicinity of the intersection with Route 57. And the Merritt Parkway was at a stand-still for several hours due to felled trees.
Most roads were lined with small branches and pieces of tree limbs and debris, and many experienced flood-like conditions in low-lying areas, making for treacherous traveling conditions throughout the evening into the early morning on Sunday.