NORWALK, Conn. The city of Norwalk has a strong message for you: Take precautions as Hurricane Irene approaches.
"This storm is to be taken very seriously. It may be the most serious storm we've had in the last 35 to 40 years," Mayor Richard Moccia said at a Friday press conference. "I know in the past, because we have had some near-misses, people are sort of thinking this may be the case. As of right now, based on the maps, this is not going to be a near-miss. Doesn't mean it can't be, but right now it doesn't look like it's going to be a near-miss."
Moccia and Emergency Management Director Michele DeLuca held a meeting Friday morning with city department heads, Norwalk Hospital representatives, the American Red Cross and others to discuss preparations. "We're as prepared as we can be," Moccia said before detailing specifics:
? The Brien McMahon High School Shelter will open at 3 p.m. Saturday. "We are urging everyone who lives in low-lying areas or flood-prone areas to protect their houses as best as they can, then go to the shelter, bringing their necessary bedding and medications with them," Moccia said. "Or to make arrangements elsewhere, whether with friends or a hotel. Please, if it comes, do not try to ride out this storm." When McMahon reaches capacity, Norwalk High School will be used.
? Make a Go Bag. "We really want residents to come to the shelter prepared," said DeLuca. "That means having a 'go bag' with medications, blanket, pillows to be a little more comfortable, toys, some activities to do."
? Pets are welcome at the shelter. Bring proof of rabies vaccinations and their medications. They must be in a carrier and will be kept in a separate area of the shelter. Bring your pets toys to give them comfort. No one will be allowed to drop off a pet and leave. You must stay in the shelter for your pet to be accepted.
? Public parks will be closed at 1 p.m. Saturday. Boat ramps will be open for an indeterminate amount of time to allow people to get their boats out.
? Be prepared for many days without power. If it comes, the storm will affect a wide area, and CL&P will not be able to call in crews from out of state.
? People who need power for their medical equipment are at risk. "That is why we urging them all to evacuate as soon as possible," Moccia said.
? Make sure you are signed up for Notify Norwalk. This is one of the ways the city will disseminate information. Published phone numbers should already be in the system.
? Parking facilities will be free as of 4 p.m. Saturday.
? If the storm hits, be careful of the sewage treatment system. Current forecasts call for very heavy rains (between 7 and 14 inches) and a storm surge that may reach 5 feet. "That combination puts the public works center and the waste water treatment plant at risk of being flooded," said Hal Alvord, director of the Department of Public Works. There is also a possibility that the plant and/or any of the city's 22 pumping stations could suffer a power outage. "We are asking everyone to make every attempt to avoid using the system if the pumping station that serves their area goes out," Alvord said.
? Clean debris off storm drains. "Believe me when I tell you that much of the flooding that comes in normal rain is when those drains are covered and it's a simple process, just clean them off," Moccia said.
? Use 911 for serious emergencies. If the power lines are down or there is a problem with trees, use the city's regular customer service number.
? Get a battery-operated radio. Charge your cell phones and any rechargeable batteries you have.
"There's no sugar-coating this, we need the cooperation of the people out there," Moccia said. "There is no magic bullet. We are not going to be able to say to you that you are not going to be flooded, whether it's along the river or a low-lying area, near the water. When you take into account the surge, the tide, the new moon, there's no magic bullet. We need your cooperation."
Have you been taking Hurricane Irene seriously? What do you think now?
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