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Hurricane's Path Threatens Norwalk

NORWALK, Conn. – Michelle Fagin remembers when Norwalk "looked like a war zone." The March 2010 windstorm knocked down trees and damaged electrical transformers. Fagin and her husband went to a restaurant because the power was out. "We couldn't make it home the normal route because there were so many trees down and fires all over the place," she said.

They're from Japan, so they're not too fazed about this week's odd events: First an earthquake shook the ground, now Hurricane Irene threatens to bring heavy rain, wind, coastal flooding and possible damages to the area by Sunday, according to the National Weather Service .

Fagin said Irene "might nix" their plans to spend the weekend in Boston, but she was more concerned about her new home because it isn't done yet. She called her contractor, who told her that he would clean up the site Friday to reduce the chance of flying debris. The new home has no windows yet and therefore no wind resistance, she said. But she is not worried — as long as trees don't hit the house.

Only five hurricanes have passed within 75 miles of New York City since 1851 — Hurricane Gloria was the most recent 26 years ago, according to Weather.com. Irene was upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane Wednesday, calling for a storm surge of 9 to 12 feet and sustained winds of 111 to 130 mph. Forecasters suspect Irene may be downgraded to a Category 2 before it approaches the Northeast, but it is a major concern. "This is the most significant threat that I've ever seen for the Northeast," said Bryan Norcross , a hurricane expert on the Weather Channel.

In Norwalk, the Office of Emergency Management is coordinating the city's emergency management team, community and private sector partners and its disaster volunteer corps for preparedness, response and recovery activities. Should coastal evacuations be needed, the city will use i ts notification system to inform residents and provide shelter updates.

Residents and businesses are reminded to update emergency plans and contact information as well as check their disaster supply kits, especially flashlights, medications and other needed items.

Cynthia Johnson, director of the Rowayton Library, said members of the Norwalk Fire Department came by Wednesday to drop off pamphlets with hurricane information and a "Plan 9" flier, asking residents to collect "nine essential items to help you shelter-in-place in the event of an emergency: water, food, clothes, medications, flashlight, can opener, radio, hygiene items (soap, toilet paper, a toothbrush) and first aid."

Johnson said the Rowayton Library would be open as a shelter if needed, as would other Norwalk libraries. "Hopefully it will be nothing serious," said Soraya Principe, who was working the desk at the Norwalk Library on Wednesday evening.

What about the odds of having a hurricane and an earthquake in the same week? "The Earth is changing, and we don't know what to expect anymore," she said.

Principe was on the ninth floor of a high-rise in Bridgeport on Tuesday, working her other job, and felt the earthquake. "It was like if I was dizzy, in the beginning I thought it was me." She grew up in Peru so she doesn't think it was much, but said, "Things like that don't happen here. It's something unusual."

Evelyn Cunningham, who was upstairs in the children's library, said she had been home in Wilton during the earthquake. She saw the ceiling fan shaking and thought about heading for the bathtub, but there's a glass door for the shower and she was afraid it might break.

She said that when Hurricane Gloria was nearing Connecticut, national forecasters said , "It's coming" all day on the television. "Then it went by," she said. "Often it's not as bad as they think it will be."

How are you preparing for the impending storm?

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